The Worst Anime of 2020 & Mega Poll Resultsby ANN Editorial Team,
The Worst Anime of 2020
There were some prime candidates for the Worst show this year. At first I wasn't sure whether to pick the clumsy, meandering, ham-handed apocalypse of Japan Sinks 2020 and its cardboard characters, or the hollow philosophizing and wonky CG of Dragon's Dogma. But then I realized that I didn't have to choose, because there was another Netflix Original that combined the worst of both worlds: Cagaster of an Insect Cage, a show accidentally(?) yet fittingly named after a Portuguese term for shit.
Cagaster is a miserable experience in every sense. Its stiff, cheap 3DCG is an eyesore that's only made worse by its horridly, hilariously ugly monster designs. Its characters are thinly-written cliches of post-apocalypse storytelling that feel as lifeless as the plastic dolls that constitute their character rigs. Not only does our adult hero end up with an underage bride as his prize at the end of the convoluted and nonsensical plot, but this comes episodes after he attempts to rape her for cheap drama, before “heroically” rescuing her from a different pair of attempted rapists later on. It's everything wrong with dystopia fiction combined into a single grimdark pile of bug guts that would be revolting if it weren't so comically inept at everything it attempts. Yet its worst sin is that for all of this, actually watching it is too boring to handle. At least other garbage shows have the decency to be spectacular in their terribleness, but with Cagaster you are genuinely, sincerely better off staring at your own toilet bowl for 4 hours over sitting through this.
I admit I made this harder on myself by insisting (to myself) that I go with something I watched all the way through – honestly, I could have just said “Noblesse” and called it a day. But in terms of series that most disappointed me that I got through in its entirety, ID: Invaded won (or lost, depending). In large part this is because it didn't seem to know what it was doing. It came out of the gate relatively strong, with an intriguing concept that was part locked-room mystery and part science fiction dystopian nightmare. The idea of exploiting people's psyches to solve crimes while relying on the tropes of the brilliant detective is fascinating, but it also requires strong writing and an extensive knowledge of the mystery genre to pull it off. Ultimately those are things that this show proved not to have – the longer it went on, the more it seemed to veer off the path and straight off a cliff. It started trying to do too many things all at once, and apart from a few strong episodes, it turned into sort of a garbage pile of ambitious ideas that didn't pan out. It may not have been objectively the worst show of 2020, but it was the one that left me the most disappointed.
It's definitely not the most incredibly incompetent anime I watched this year (that proud distinction goes to Gibiate), but if we're talking about the worst experience I had with a series, it can only be Rent-a-Girlfriend. While it's infuriating on a lot of the same levels that most middling harem comedies find themselves treading, Rent-a-Girlfriend also has the gall to be potentially interesting and completely squander it. There's so much room to use the rental girlfriend conceit to explore modern relationships both romantic and platonic, but RAG chooses instead to wrap itself entirely in tired cliches and embarrassing misogyny. Its protagonist is a charmless sadsack who mistakes moping about his issues for the hard work of trying to improve himself. That's also endemic of the show at large, which thinks it can get away with the most heinously pedestrian of harem antics so long as it winks and nudges the audience hard enough. I have no tolerance for self-awareness divorced from actionable commentary. Rent-a-Girlfriend was thus a poisonous experience for me, and barring one hell of a sea change in its ambitions, I hope I can stay away from the sequel. That OP is a bop, though.
Look, I gotta talk about this thing in this context at some point. Anyone tasked with declaring the worst show they watched all year knows it's not always simply a case of what you felt was the most clear-cut lowest-quality in terms of technical execution. It could be something you thought was the most disappointing, or the show whose presence annoyed you the most in the year. Digimon Adventure: has had some great episodes, even a couple of outstanding ones, but ultimately I must see it as the most frustrating thing I watched all through 2020. This is a reboot of a cherished childhood classic I've revisited many times over, tying into a franchise I still have a lot of love for. It opened with an extremely strong three-parter that showed there was still plenty of potential life in this ambitious revival, but then after a solid introductory arc to the cast and setting proper, it devolves into a shallow, rudderless effort.
It brings me no joy to declare the Digimon reboot as being this kind of failure; Something that has, about halfway into its run, proven to be a wasted attempt. I can't say they didn't try, in the same way that someone who can't swim but finds themselves desperately splashing about in the deep end of a pool is clearly making some sort of effort. But they're misguided efforts, as Adventure Colon 2020 tosses out so much of the exploration, weird mystery, and quirky character work that defined the 1999 classic in favor of exhaustingly escalating fight scenes and unearned power-ups. A series set to run for 60+ episodes must have some degree of planning behind it, but this show regularly feels like the staff have no idea what they're doing and just stalling for time. No one who understands Koshiro's character or recognizes his invaluable inclusion in the original team would relegate him to spending half the episodes on Zoom calls! In a series like this there is always potential for an upswing, and lord knows I want Digimon Adventure: to turn out to have more value than what it's shown. But as-is, this has been one of the most massive, deflating let-downs I've experienced in a while.
Was there ever any doubt? Crunchyroll's first original, Tower of God, was also produced in partnership with South Korea's Webtoon, and while that series certainly earned mixed responses, The God of High School was a complete disaster. Director Sunghoo Park and the veterans at MAPPA put their all into delivering some of the coolest-looking spectacle of the year, but no amount of whiz-bang action could save GoH from how badly it failed to produce an interesting, or even coherent, narrative. Most of the time, it feels like you're standing over the shoulder of a friend who is playing a decently cool-looking fighting game, except they're constantly skipping the character intros and cutscenes and whatnot, meaning that the only thing you can see is a bunch of nifty-looking fights that don't make even a lick of sense. In GoH's case, though, things only get worse when the show stops for a minute to try (and fail) at being a Real Anime. It's a creatively bankrupt rip-off of every popular trope and series aimed at a demographic of (mostly) young men: Take Dragon Ball, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Naruto, Tekken, and any bargain-bin imitations thereof, toss them all into a blender, making sure to sift out any remaining vestiges of personality or intelligence, and then smear the remaining heap of featureless mush directly on to your eyeballs. That's what watching The God of High School is like, and it's a pretty terrible experience all around.
Since most reviewers aren't going to waste their time on shows they well and truly hate, “worst anime” lists tend to be more like “most disappointing” or “most barely watchable.” But not me, not this year. Oh no. I can confidently say that I watched one of the worst anime of 2020 beginning to end: Nekopara, the uncomfortably sexual series about a man and his cats, in a world where cats are fully sentient humanoid beings but are still owned by humans. It's poorly-sanitized pet fetish porn, completely lacking in any appeal if you don't think the idea of having an owner is sexy. The humor, an alarming amount of which is about the cats peeing themselves or the size of their boobs, is so bad my husband called it “ontologically harmful” and started leaving the room every time I turned it on. The premise is so thin the creator begged Twitter not to think about it too hard, because the logistics of the world fall apart completely if you think about it for more than two seconds. The cats are budgeted one, maybe two personality traits apiece, and unfortunately not a single one was left for their owner. It's truly terrible, and not entertainingly so.
I struggled for a while with what title to give this award to, until I finally remembered the existence of this January release. Then the choice become obvious. Even as trashy B movies go, this movie is trash. Mediocre technical merits for a movie set a low baseline, but the movie stoops even lower with abysmally stupid behavior by most of the cast, rampant logical holes, and questionable direction choices. The crowning achievement of the latter was an 80 second sequence where the main female character Mutsumi just walks down an improbably long hall while rock music plays. I actually liked Mutsumi and am saddened that her time in the sun was saddled with such dreck. Runner-up here would be the OVA for DanMachi 2.
The Best Anime of 2020 Mega-Poll Results
Well, you guys weighed in and the results were heard loud and clear! The anime communities top 10 series and films from 2020 are:
- Attack on Titan The Final Season
- Jujutsu Kaisen
- Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2
- Haikyu!! To The Top
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Movie: Mugen Train
- Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
- Akudama Drive
- Fruits Basket 2nd Season
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