Netflix Originals have been a staple of This Week in Anime since launch and we've had plenty of fun poking and some the service's less than stellar productions. After two years in the game, Nick and Micchy look back at everything from the viscerally horrific A.I.C.O. -Incarnation- to the stupefying Sword Gai. Is Netflix living up to its promises, or more importantly, are these shows any good?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Micchy, with folks trapped in solitude these days there's a lot of suggestions for what they should watch to pass the time. Recently I tried making a list of easily available anime that was worth people's time and I came to a startling question: Is there anything on Netflix
that doesn't suck ass?
Well, if you're willing to stretch your definition of 'anime' a little, there's The Dark Crystal
. Or, I dunno, you could watch DEVILMAN crybaby
again, there's always that!
But really, we're 2 years into Netflix's endeavor to integrate themselves into anime production. They've had over a dozen exclusives (read: stuff that only aired on their service and never on Japanese TV) and having sat through most of them, it's a challenge to come up with even a handful that aren't kinda shitty. Like you mention Crybaby, which was phenomenal, but is also the only genuine Netflix Original that a) people liked and b) anyone remembers even 3 months after it released
Which seems to be the fate of most Netflix 'originals', no? They get dumped all at once, people talk about it for a week tops, and then they continue to get eyeballs on them despite really engaging with nobody. Watching stuff on Netflix is all about bingeing and immediately forgetting, which sure is a way to pass the time but doesn't make for much of an impression.
And even for somebody with a pretty good memory for anime bullshit, it's easy for things to slip through the cracks when you watch them in a couple sittings. Like do you remember anything about B: The Beginning
? Cuz I sure don't. Well OK, that's a lie, I remember the skateboarding clown.
B had the fortune of being first in the earliest of Netflix's quarterly anime dumps and bugnuts wild, so that one's stuck in my mind a bit better than the rest. Like, for all its balls-stupid Sherlock-meets-Bleach plotting, at least its direction has some energy, which is more than I can say for most of the chaff that followed.
I'll have to take your word for it because all my old screenshots and show notes for it just talk about clowns.
But if we REALLY want to talk about a memory hole'd show, who here besides me remembers A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-
? The answer is nobody.
Not unless you're a connoisseur of weird lost dubs. Most significant thing about that one is probably how its stilted English dub
was swapped out after the show went up. So it's at least got something going for it!
And that sucks because it's honestly a really solid sci-fi thriller series. It's fast-paced, suitably weird, and has some fantastically gross animation courtesy of Bones and the director of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
. Just look at this shit!
Unfortunately it dropped the same month as three other releases, so unless you got to it within about three days it probably went on your backlog list, never to be seen again. It's not really the kind of thing you throw on in the background either, so good luck ever getting around to that one. Really oof that the thing that supplanted it was Sword Gai: The Animation
, of all things. Sword Gai
, about the sword guy.
A sword BABY, thank you very much.
Man, how did Sword Gai get two whole seasons? How can there be that much story to get out of a guy whose sword isn't even made out of interesting things like potatoes or cotton underpants? What I'm saying is that Kiwami the knife guy is infinitely more entertaining than anime sword guy.
Well obviously they can't have Sword Gai
, the guy who is a sword, wield a sword made out of something like that. Then how would he melt the sword down to turn into a budget automail?
Consider: chocolate sword robot arm. Lethal and delicious.
To be fair this is a show where the fat character literally eats sunken pirate treasure so there's no guarantee somebody didn't eat Swordgai's Swordarm in the second season nobody bothered to watch.
Though I will give BladeDude this: it was almost never boring. Dumb, excruciatingly edgy, embarrassing, and written like bad fanfiction, yes, but never boring. Which is more than I can say for HERO MASK
I'm actually kind of glad I pawned off HERO MASK responsibilities to Steve that week because dear lord does it sound like a wet fart of a show. I don't think I could make it through that much nothing even if I were bored to tears in quarantine. And it's got a second season! How!!!
just has money to burn? As somebody who likes
police procedurals it's astonishing how bad that show is at it. Like even forgiving that it's edited like a Jason Bourne movie played at 3x speed:
It's also the only action show you'll ever see where a character gets stuck in traffic for 3 episodes
. And you see that entire car ride like you're trapped in rush hour with them.
With Hero Mask, it's obvious what kind of audience Netflix is trying to court in its productions and licenses: people who think of anime as Not Kids' Stuff; they'll jump on anything that's edgy but culturally accessible to 'casuals' (for lack of a better word). In practice that usually means the stuff Netflix grabs is gray or boring as paste.
Oh like when we got a grimdark CG sequel to Ultraman, of all things?
With a lead voiced by one of the stars of The Hunger Games
, no less! Though my impression of that ill-conceived venture can be best summed up like so:
I remember the weird swerve of trying to turn a cheesy tokusatsu kids show into Man of Steel
at least, and how totally at odds the whole thing was.
At least the action scenes aren't terrible to look at? It's decently well-made, for what it's worth. A bizarre take on the franchise, but at least it doesn't feel totally uninspired.
I mean, grimdark CG Ultraman is at least more engaging than plasticky CG Saint Seiya
Oh jeez. I actually forgot about that thing existing. But yeah that barely functional toy commercial sure did look even worse when Netflix
got a wild hair across their ass and put the original Saint Seiya
series up. Turns out putting guns in your show doesn't actually make it mature or appeal to westerners.
It honestly does seem that in trying to appeal to the widest audiences possible, the disposable chaff we think of when we hear "Netflix
dump" just loses any sort of flavor whatsoever. Possibly the most promising thing about Netflix
is its oodles of (borrowed) cash, which could be going towards interesting projects that nobody else wants to take a risk on - we mentioned DEVILMAN crybaby
already, but the Haoliners film Flavors of Youth
and the Sturgill Simpson concept album from the Batman Ninja
guys come to mind. But it really feels like outside of a handful of titles, the only two genres of Netflix
exclusive anime are "bland gray sci-fi" and "gray CG punchmen", one of which I find marginally more entertaining than the other.
While I'm not big on either of those, I do at least appreciate them as something different
. They feel like creations somebody actually deeply wanted to make, whereas so much of Netflix
's offerings feel like projects forced upon their creators. Or at least forced upon me. Like did anyone, anyone want Cagaster of an Insect Cage
We gotta drop at least one entry under "bland gray sci-fi" every quarter or it's not a Netflix
Dump™! Its accompanying punchman show is, of course, Levius
Which brings us full circle back to The Clowns
How about the Baki
I don't know if the recurring clowns says something about Netflix's market research or about the state of sci-fi anime these days, but boy am I sick of evil clowns. If your anime adds an evil clown it's almost a sure sign everyone should stop watching immediately.
Send out those clowns. Send them out into the giant clown shredder behind Netflix
HQ. I beg of you. Though I will say, the absolute worst thing Netflix
has ever loosed upon an unsuspecting world was miraculously clown free. Because it turns out you, the viewer, are the clown for having wasted your life watching 7SEEDS
You must be so
thrilled to see this lovely little red tag then. I bet it taunts you every time you pull up the site.
But really, 7SEEDS
is almost the platonic idea of a bad Netflix
original. It's a terribly paced, poorly animated disaster that manages to crush every bit of charm from its critically lauded source material. It's a grimdark slog of misery porn that is so bad it turns into black comedy. It is easily the worst anime viewing experience I've had this past decade. Its mere existence is proof that art as capital is an inherently flawed concept. It has a guy fight a tiger with baseball.
On the other hand, Aggretsuko
and Rilakkuma and Kaoru
represent what a Netflix
Original™ could be. Given a bunch of passionate creative talent, the resources they need to create their visions, and a platform that will get eyeballs on their work, and you sometimes introduce some genuinely neat stuff to the conversation.
And really, I don't know if I'm being too harsh in expecting more than a handful of titles to be legit good. There's plenty of other seasonal stuff that's just as bad as the average Netflix
Original™ but just never makes it into public discourse. Like, maybe we only feel Netflix
stuff is especially bad because the platform shoves it in our faces.
Well that more than anything is what chafes me about most of these shows. Crunchyroll
stream plenty of lame, forgettable anime every year, but that's because they want to show as much as possible. Netflix
positions its "originals" as a catered selection of special works but 90% of what they put out is phoned-in paste. Outside of literally a couple shows, Netflix
's best offerings are TV series they just refuse to simulcast
outside of Japan that they slap their "original" title on and let die on the vine. And also just never release on home video.
Yes I'm still mad about Little Witch Academia
Which just means that "Netflix original" is a marketing term that says absolutely nothing about a show's quality. Well, that's marketing for ya, I guess? It's absolutely a travesty that Netflix continues to sit on shows with no plans for a home video release though—those contracts expire eventually, dammit!
Somebody, anyone let my daughter Akko out of jail. Let her live her life. And also can we get a DMC Blu-ray already like god damn.
No offense to Hiroshi Nagahama
but his DMC
doesn't feature explosive ejaculation so it'll always be inferior.
OK you know what, that's fair. I can't argue with our generation's greatest fuckup(wards).
Anyway, with that out of my system I guess I'll go back to waiting for any word on when we'll actually get to watch DOROHEDORO
. Thanks Netflix
In the meantime, I'll be over here yelling about why Henry Cavill is anime, actually. No I am not taking feedback at this time.