Top 5 Anime with the Most Wasted Potential
Every once in a while, an anime comes along that takes the world by storm. Excellent writing (aka source manga), steady pacing and an interesting lore are the most important ingredients needed to make this happen, and it's rare to find an entry that satisfies all 3 points on the checklist for success. Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer are the most recent examples to come to mind. However, even more painful than realising the scarcity with which such masterpieces appear, is when a fanbase feels completely betrayed by the direction the anime suddenly decides to follow. Fan-service is a well-known feature in anime culture (best example being Fairy Tail, maybe? 😏) but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about anime that started things off on a fantastic note and showed much promise at the start but ended up falling drastically short of the expectations they'd set from their own fanbase. These are the top 5 anime with the most wasted potential.
Remember, just because an anime is on this list doesn't mean we're calling it bad; it just means that they could have been so much more than what they decided to become.
Let's get to it!
5: Sword Art Online
4: High School of the Dead
3: Angel Beats!
2: Deadman Wonderland!
1: Find Out!
5. Sword Art Online
We can already feel our readers dividing into two factions after reading this title. You'll either lean back and let out a satisfied "Yesssss" or you'll hate us for it and hug your Asuna body pillow particularly tightly tonight. Whatever your stance on the matter, SAO is almost unanimously agreed upon as one of the biggest letdowns of anime history. The anime started off with a brilliant and original (at that time) premise: teens get trapped in a virtual reality open world RPG with the threat of death as a guaranteed consequence of failure. Although the anime does a fantastic job of world-building and introduces us to many different characters, it falls tragically short of its original grandeur.
Although it never fully allows its story to become formulaic, it essentially disregards its own main character and turns him into an overpowered player- mitigating any real sense of thrill in its story. We've seen the same concept (an overpowered MC) very well utilized in shows like One Punch Man and, more appropriately, Overlord- but SAO mishandles its own characters and the storyline quickly turns bland. Instead of really focusing on the MC, the show begins to turn its attention to other characters (all women) who accompany him, essentially degrading itself to a "girl of the week" routine. While some audiences are perfectly content with this choice, the fact cannot be ignored that this anime could have been so very much more than what it has turned itself into today. The abrupt and pronounced shift in focus of the storyline in the second half of the first season actually started to fix the issues, but it fell remarkably short of its goal; for many, the shift itself was yet another reason to give up on the franchise.
All these factors together give SAO the entry level status in this Top 5 list. The anime is well-liked by many, so it's clearly not a disaster!
4. High School of the Dead
It wasn't until HOTD came out that the world realised just how unexplored the zombie apocalypse scenario was in the anime world, unlike in Hollywood where it's become one of the most overused cliches of all time. Nevertheless, HOTD started off on a serious note and held nothing back in the first three episodes or so. The protagonist, although having a rather shallow personality, is quickly established as a delinquent and his interactions with other characters of note in the show are quickly seen. The anime introduces most of the characters of the main cast in the first episode itself and starts things off on a very grim and emotional note; the pacing is very well executed. This setting more or less continues for the first quarter of the anime and we often witness gruesome deaths and an overall serious undertone establishes itself without appearing cliche.
And then someone somewhere suddenly decided to turn the anime into a parade of tits and butts. Now, it's not like these themes were totally absent in the first 4 episodes (in fact, one of the first scenes in the show involves the protag staring down a girl's cleavage), but at no point was anyone expecting the horror-apocalypse-action-ecchi anime to utterly disregard everything other than the ecchi. Suddenly, the zombies are nerfed worse than Gohan after the Cell Saga, and the anime is tits galore. Pointless episodes dedicated to nothing other than showcasing the females start to appear (keep in mind that it's a 12 episode anime), and the zombies suddenly take the backseat and focus on gobbling up all the other humans out there, even though all the main cast spend an entire evening in a house making noises that would make anyone turn around and stare.
Now, now, before you lynch us for oppai-bashing (is that even a thing?), we're not saying that such themes don't belong in anime (especially one that has ecchi written all over it), but then we have to ask a different question- what even was the point of building up the storyline in such a different way? The anime starts off as a horror, delves face-first into oppai territory and then quickly attempts to get serious again in the last 2 episodes, setting itself up for a storytelling disaster.
HOTD showed much promise but forgot how great its story was, all in favour for some boobs. It's because of the boobs, however, that this entry isn't placed higher on the list. 😊 Japan loves this anime!
3. Angel Beats!
Angel Beats is a fantasy series that's one of the most easily recognized modern anime of all time, although its viewerbase remains shockingly limited. It's set in a high school of the afterlife where souls in limbo end up to overcome whatever is holding them back from passing on and re-enter the cycle of reincarnation. The show kicks off with the arrival of the protagonist- Yuzuru Otonashi- in this strange high school. Yuruzu finds himself suffering from amnesia and takes up the offer of a girl (Yuri Nakamura), who gets him to join the Afterlife Battlefront, an organization which rebels against God for their unfair circumstances in life.
That's basically the premise of the show and, to be fair, Angel Beats doesn't butcher it quite like a lot of the entries on this list.
The story is touching, heartwarming and sad, keeping its viewers in a flux of emotional experiences- so much so that Angel Beats is often compared to Clannad as one of the most tear-jerking anime of all time. A lot of people do not agree with this, but that's not what we're here to discuss today so we'll leave that bit up to you. What you're probably wondering, however, is how it ended up here if it's so good. Rather tragically, the issue with Angel Beats isn't its actual story, as it is with its pacing and character exploration. The show suffers from rushed writing and forced emotions, especially nearing the end of the show- something notably paradoxical since the anime has its fair share of fillers, especially for a 13 episode anime, that could have been put to better use. The romantic storyline itself feels unnaturally sped up nearing the end of the show, which holds it back from what it could have been had it gotten more time to actually develop.
Yet another factor almost all fans complain about is the fact that the anime has a LOT of unexplored characters. It seems almost as if the rest of the cast is as ignored as the NPCs in the high school; very sad, considering the show could have done so much better in developing their backstories.
Nevertheless, Angel Beats does manage to function as an anime and is adored by many, earning it the middle spot in this list. It could have done so much more, but it works just fine even without doing so.
2. Deadman Wonderland
Ah Deadman Wonderland. This entry is here only as a technicality: the list is about the top 5 anime with the most wasted potential; not the top 5 series. The manga for Deadman Wonderland is miles better than its anime counterpart since, for one, it actually has an ending. We'll get to the details later; first let's take a look at what this show is about: Ganta Igarashi is an average Japanese boy whose entire class- except for him- is brutally burdered by a mysterious Red Man. Accused by society of mass homicide and treated as a criminal by the justice system, Ganta is thrown into the worst jail of all: Deadman Wonderland- a place where convicts must engage in win-or-die games in order to earn Cast Points (prison currency) to live.
The manga, and the anime, both have the same beginning and convey the premise of the show equally well. The problems all started when the anime caught up to the manga. At that point, the anime had 2 choices- either continue the anime with filler or end things unresolved. Deadman Wonderland is one of the few ambitious (sarcasm, in case you didn't feel it already) anime to accomplish both- giving the anime a messy, unresolved ending that tells the viewer exactly nothing of what followed. They really went out of the way to slap their fanbase in the face.
Rather hilariously, the Deadman anime also dug its own grave deeper by choosing to omit a few side characters in season 1. Guess what? These characters would turn out to be pivotal to the story in season 2 (if there even was one), meaning the anime cut off its own feet and had no way to recuperate. What adds more salt to the wound is realising that a show like Deadman Wonderland had SO much potential that even without a source material, it could have accomplished amazing things- lack of creativity, shortsightedness and general management made the Deadman Wonderland anime the catastrophe that it is. Then again, at least readers will have an excellent manga to make up for the terrible anime.
However, that's not something we can say about the last entry...
1. Aldnoah. Zero
This is one entry we're certain there's no dispute about, mainly because most of you won't have heard of it. Aldnoah.Zero is the very definition of wasted potential and underutilized plot progression. Released in 2014, this anime took the global anime community by storm and became immensely popular- and for very good reason. The plot was highly engaging, the characters seemed to be very promising & well sketched out and the action scenes were brilliantly executed.
The storyline essentially is this: Earth and Mars are at war and Kataphrakts (robots operated by humans) are deployed in the frontlines to do the major bulk of the fighting. The Martian princess attempts to make peace with Earth but her plans are shattered (and crashed and burnt AND blown to bits), culminating in a full blown war between the two planets. The protagonist of the series is quick-thinking, clever Inaho Kaizuka and the story follows his persuits in resisting the Martian Invasion.
We cannot do justice to how brilliant the fight scenes were and how cleverly each battle was fought; this is something you'll have to watch yourself to truly appreciate. Just do yourself a favour and drop the series as soon as the first season ends. Convince yourself to be content with the cliffhanger ending and pretend like the rest of the series is meant for your imagination to work out, because season 2 will take everything that season 1 took great strides to achieve and Thanos snap it right out of existence.
The protagonist remains a shell of a human throughout the show and sees almost no character development, and the main antagonist (or protagonist, depending on which side of the story you support), although very well developed as a character decides to utterly disregard everything about who he is when the situation calls for action, turning the show into nothing more than brilliantly animated garbage.
Aldnoah Zero has one of the strongest first seasons among any show we've seen, particularly for a 12 episode run, but season 2 actively dismantles everything you love about the show and tries to become something else entirely- failing at everything along the way. The only reason for watching the second season is the action- but if that's what you want to focus on, there are several shounen anime that do it better.
This is why Aldnoah.Zero tops our list for the anime with the most wasted potential, and believe us; it wins by a large margin!
What did you think of this list? Angry that we included an anime you love in it? Think you have a more deserving title that belongs here? We're happy (and ever so slightly scared this time, not gonna lie) to listen to your feedback! Let us know what you think down in the comments below!
We'll catch you with another Top 5 list next week!