Overreliance of Future Possibility in Anime

Alternatively titled – “The Problem With Summer 2019’s Isekai Anime“.

This is just a thought I’ve had recently, something I’ve noticed while following along with the following three anime: Arifureta, Maou-sama, Retry!, and Isekai Cheat Magician (while I’m not following it here, you can find my posts on Maou-sama, Retry! over at Ecchi Hunter!). I’m not watching the isekai mom anime, so really the issue is just with the above three isekai titles.

It’s something I’ve realized thanks to these three anime, but it’s present in all sorts of anime, intentionally or unintentionally.

An overreliance on future possibilities in anime, or as I like to call it, “passing the buck”.

Essentially, I have noticed that many anime have a tendency to rely too heavily on what amounts to cliffhangers – hints of future possibility or what is to come. Instead of providing individually enjoyable episodes, they provide episodes that exist only to build up the future potential of the series. And sometimes, this spans several episodes.

I’ll give an example to make things clearer, using Maou-sama, Retry!.

I’ve been following Maou-sama, Retry! for this anime season, and something that I noticed about my episodic reviews is that I almost always mention how much I am looking forward to the next episode, to see what happens with X or Y. In fact, I would say that looking forward to X or Y is where I get majority of my enjoyment from for this anime. But I think there’s a problem here.

If my enjoyment primarily comes from speculating and anticipating future episodes, then what does this mean about the actual episodes themselves that I’ve already seen? To be honest, if it wasn’t for the enjoyment I get from anticipation of what’s to come, I wonder how much I would even enjoy Maou-sama, Retry!.

And that’s why I like to call this “passing the buck”, or you could also call it “kicking the can down the road”. Because what’s happening is I am not enjoying Maou-sama, Retry! because each individual episode on its own merits is enjoyable, but because I want to see what happens next, or see what happens with X or Y. But then if nothing happens with X or Y next episode, I have to wait another episode to see, and possibly another, and another. Basically the anime can pass the buck forward in this way, relying not on the merits of individual episodes, but on what I’m eagerly waiting to see play out.

I feel very similarly towards Arifureta, although it isn’t as bad as Maou-sama, Retry!. I find the episodes more enjoyable individually, but a large portion of my enjoyment comes from waiting for the next episode to see what happens next, not from the episodes that I’ve watched themselves.

I don’t think this is a bad thing in itself, because obviously a good anime will generate that interest in what is to come. But I’m thinking it can be a problem when it becomes the largest source of enjoyment, or the ONLY source of enjoyment.. Especially if an anime just passes the buck forward for so many episodes that it can’t possibly hope to live up to expectations once it can’t pass the buck forward anymore – unless it decides to leave the ending open for a future season that may never come.

When I compare Maou-sama, Retry! to an anime like Konosuba, I can’t help but think that every single individual episode of Konosuba, completely self-contained, is just more enjoyable to me than all of Maou-sama, Retry! and it’s possibilities. And that makes me think that maybe Maou-sama, Retry! just relies a little too much on what is to come – how will Kunai react to future events, how will characters react to meeting Kunai, what will Kunai do next… questions like this are pretty much the sole reason I am enjoying Maou-sama, Retry!. I just worry that Maou-sama, Retry! will fail to deliver in the end.

On another note, there is Isekai Cheat Magician. Which for me not only has unenjoyable individual episodes, but also gives me no real reason to want to see what happens next. It’s failed on both fronts. Failed to the point that my biggest hope is to just see some flashy action scenes, because the overarching story hasn’t generated any interest from me and the characters / episodes so far have been a bore.

A good anime will not only create a compelling overarching story that leaves viewers wanting more, but also provide plenty of fun along the way. I think that the “along the way” part is what’s missing here with Arifureta and Maou-sama, Retry!, while Isekai Cheat Magician is lacking both components.

Anyways, those are the thoughts that I had regarding the isekai anime I’ve been following this season. I’m going to see all three to the end, but I couldn’t help but think that compared to other anime I’m currently watching, the individual episodes themselves haven’t been anything special and most of my excitement for these shows is just waiting for the next episode. Because maybe something exciting will happen next episode!

That’s all I’ll write for this topic.

Naturally I’d love to hear if any of you have similar feelings, either towards the anime I’ve referenced in this post or towards something else. I’d have to go through my list but I’ve definitely felt this way for other anime that I’ve watched.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading!

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22 thoughts on “Overreliance of Future Possibility in Anime

  1. Totally agree. It’s even worse when the cliffhanger ends up being pointless when the resolution is too easy.

    It’s fine to have them to leave the viewer wanting more but when it becomes a gimmick it gets annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t even know if I’d call it an intentional gimmick or just that the individual episodes fall short of what the overarching story promises, or something like this. Probably is intentional though, considering how often “Perfect 7” anime are produced that just do their best to maintain an extremely average / status quo story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cliffhangers are dumb, but they work and it pisses us off that they work.

    I actually really liked Maou-Sama with “not Diablo’ and “absolutely not Rem” It’s probably my Isekai-trash of the season, and only because Isekai Milf is art.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. darkdaemonpk2

    I think you may be watching the wrong anime if you are leaning against anime that are purely episodic. But yeah, I also feel the same way since the resolution for the episode I am currently watching mostly happens at the second half of the following episode. I guess the anime directors are making changes to make people to get hook on watching the entire series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I understand that this concept doesn’t work as well for slice of life anime and whatnot that are all self-contained episodes in terms of story. But it’s so easy for me to look at Overlord for example and realize that each individual episode was enjoyable in addition to the overarching “what’s going to happen next?” aspect.

      I just think that a good anime needs to have both elements, and there are countless examples of non-episodic anime (in terms of story) that have this, so I don’t think I’m just watching the wrong anime.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I dont understand. you dont want an anime to make you want to watch more episodes every week??? i think its a genre thimg though since most of what you mentioned are LNs, is it?
        try an original screenplay anime and see if this prob persists lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s when anime RELY on it and put out poor episodes knowing that they can just keep hinting at some future event. Like “this episode wasn’t great, but next time, maybe it will be”. Only for the cycle to repeat, probably.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. i binge my anime so i dont really see it. i mean if the story doesnt hold up its easy to spot. must be something in new anime??? i’ll try to check it out to see what u mean

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah you definitely dont notice it as much when binging, it’s only because I’m watching seasonal titles now that I’ve felt it. Countless episodic reviews now I’ve written where I basically say “Well, this episode was not great, but I’m looking forward to seeing X happen”.. eventually for some I just begin speculating about the ending several episodes before it happens because there’s just nothing exciting to write about the episode itself haha

        Liked by 1 person

      5. sounds like its your fault lol for thinking theres a box of chocolates under the pillow before its even revealed xD
        bit i guess i understand. but isnt a show fun though if it gives you a reason to tune im next week? im sorry im ocerthinking this. hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I mentioned it in my post, what I worry about most is that the anime simply wont deliver in the end. Like a trail of crumbs that lead only to disappointment.

        Like

      7. Something like this happened in Attack on Titan. I prefer to call it “the mystery box.” Basically we were baited about what would be there under the cellar of the protagonists home for so long that when the actual revelation came it couldn’t live up to the hype.

        I wonder whether this has to do with the lack of filler in anime these days which means the plot is bunched up. In the past it was not strange to go many episodes without nothing happening which was annoying in its own way.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. That’s true, I can’t think of many anime that have filler aside from longer-running shounen titles. I think a larger part of the problem is just the anime industry churning out “perfect 7” average anime, just trying to go with the trends like the current isekai trend.

        It’s been done before, it’s currently being done to death, and as a result isekai anime need to bring more to the table or else they’ll end up with boring episodes and having to try and rely on cliffhangers.

        Like

  4. I don’t know – Astra Lost in Space has ended its last couple of episodes on major cliffhangers and yes a lot of the fun and tension comes from wondering how they will be resolved, but the great thing is that the episode leading up to that cliffhanger was great to begin with. I care about these characters and want them to succeed and so everything carries more weight and all the future questions feel meaningful.
    Then again, shows that just throw a cliffhanger or some sort of question at the end because they know the rest of the episode was a snore and they need something to make us not forget about the show by next week are just being kind of lazy and they never end up all that satisfying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah you basically touch upon it at the end there, but I’ll clarify that I don’t have an issue with cliffhangers in general, what I don’t like is anime that put out poor episodes and leave me with “I wonder what will happen next episode” as the only real takeaway.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Takakura Kotori

    As a rule of thumb, if the art of an anime looks okay or better for me then I respect it and watch it, I do not pay critical attention to plots.

    For each Isekai anime, I get to see how new ideas and similar ideas will look like (even if similar ideas are featured, I am curious about how an idea can be implemented differently.) Each anime season of 12 episodes has a lot of content to keep me entertained, I let good impressions of an anime dominate me. In general, anime are my primary source of inspiration. I pay homage to specific anime if they help me invent something or come up with a brand-new practical idea, which also strengthens my overall general impression for anime. It is a win-win scenario, so I am blissful as an anime lover and I am highly satisfied in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that. I should try to focus more on the most positive aspects of an anime and go with that. I usually try to find a silver lining in what I am watching at least.

      Lately I have been more critical than normal, I think writing one post per episode of anime has a lot to do with that, because it’s hard to think about what else to talk about. Sometimes I think criticism can be a good thing, but you’re right that it’s more enjoyable all around if I just focus on the positives.

      And you’re also right that it’s definitely interesting to compare similar anime, and see what each did differently.. art, story, characters, et cetera.

      Like

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