You voted. We watched. This is the fourth installment of a series of conversations between Watson and myself about anime that have, for whatever reason, been deemed as worthy contenders for the title of Worst Anime of All Time.
As with Mirage of Blaze, Hand Shakers, and Vampire Holmes, our goal is not simply to criticize unpopular anime for entertainment purposes (though we certainly hope these articles are fun to read), but rather to have an actual discussion about what makes any given show ‘work’ – or not, as the case may be. We’re both also genuinely interested in seeing whether or not these shows are actually deserving of their widespread condemnation by the anime community.
So please sit back, enjoy, and by all means let us know your own opinions in the comments.
Artemis: Alright. For better or for worse (and I highly suspect the latter), let’s do this.
Watson: 180 minutes.
Artemis: I beg your pardon?
Watson: 12 episodes, at 15 minutes each… 180 minutes. That’s how much lifespan this series would cost anyone who somehow managed to watch the whole thing. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like a good trade.
Artemis: Fun fact: there’s also a season 2.
Watson: What? WHAT?!?
Artemis: Indeed. And, might I point out, most likely because there was actual demand for it. You know, just in case you felt like laying the blame solely at the feet of the anime creators on that one. Clearly, there were enough people who sincerely wanted to see more of this.
Watson: That’s a depressing thought.
Artemis: Maybe that’s a good starting point for this post then. Tempting as it might be to dismiss it out of hand, can we think of anything genuinely good to say about this series?
Artemis: Anything at all.
Watson: I suppose that, if you ignore how immensely distasteful the content of the show is, the actual production is… well, not terrible. The visuals are okay, and the sound quality is decent too.
Artemis: I agree, the visuals are actually surprisingly decent in this I think. Granted, the episodes are only 15 minutes long so the budget didn’t need to stretch as far as it normally would, but even so. Plus, as tired as I personally am of this whole goth vampire aesthetic thing, which has been done to death (geddit?) over recent years, it’s actually done reasonably well here regardless. I mean, if I were watching anime purely for the visuals and didn’t care about anything else, I imagine my teenage self would’ve been all over this. Which, clearly, plenty of teenage girls still are today.
Watson: What you did thar, I sees it. The visuals are okay, sure, but they’re not crazy good. I know, de gustibus non est disputandum, but to me it wasn’t a fantastic example of Gothicism. Maybe I just have different expectations though.
Artemis: Well, you know how it is. Throw in a huge creepy mansion, decorate it liberally with old-school crosses and cobwebs, throw in some ornate mirrors and antique clocks, etc. etc. and you have yourself a winner as far as some people are probably concerned.
Watson: As you say, apparently lots of people did love it. I was going to ask why you picked teenage girls as the target audience demographic, but at this point I’m starting to get depressingly familiar with how the anime fandom works.
Artemis: On another visuals note, I also think the character designs are fine. Far better, in fact, than many reverse-harem shows out there. After all, if you’re going to make a show about a girl being the center of attention for a cast of handsome young men, you better make sure said young men will actually appeal to the audience.
Watson: Sure, I can see that. I can’t imagine how some of these specimens could be appealing, mind you, but then again, I’m not a teenage girl with a goth fixation.
Artemis: Thankfully, neither am I. That said, I think the art style suits the characters and overall theme of the show, so I don’t mind giving credit where credit is due for that.
Watson: The music and sound are fine too. Nothing particularly wonderful, in my opinion, but they did the job and didn’t offend the ears any more than is normal.
Artemis: Yes, the music was… alright, so I don’t actually remember what the music was like, but I do remember hating the music in both Vampire Holmes and Hand Shakers, so clearly it at least wasn’t terrible in this case.
Watson: We’re setting the bar pretty low with that, you know. But at this point I’ll settle for ‘didn’t actually make my ears bleed’ as a step up, so let’s mark it down as adequate.
They’re still no Haruhi Suzumiya, mind you.
Artemis: Shall we move on to the actual content then? Or should we say a prayer first?
Watson: If we do, it had better involve bell, book, and candle.
Artemis: That’s my kind of prayer.
Watson: My main problems with Diabolik Lovers are all related to the content of the show, and by that I mean the characters because I neither know nor care what the plot might have been doing (assuming there was one).
Artemis: I think the characters sort of are the plot? Insofar as they were the only thing that was really being pushed in any meaningful way. The plot seemed secondary to their… I hate to say ‘romancing’, but there you are – of the main character.
Watson: No, no. I’m going to stop you right there. See, the very word ‘character’ implies agency, some ability to take action, and that girl-shaped void does not qualify. She did LITERALLY NOTHING except be pursued by skeevy vampires. If she was the main character, then that chandelier in the hall deserves equal billing. Much as it pains me to say anything about the vampires except to wish them eternal damnation, they do at least have a goal and pursue it. They’re terrible characters in almost every way it is possible to be terrible – monotone, single-featured, rapey little freaks – but THEY are the ones with agency, not her. There’s a whole litany of things I hated about that girl-shaped void, but one of the main ones is how readily she falls in with the assholes she’s surrounded by.
Artemis: I’m actually really glad you said that. Because my biggest problem with this series wasn’t that the guys are rapey assholes – it’s that they’re rapey assholes and are allowed to get away with it, both by the girl and by the show itself. Granted, no means exactly that, and I note that the main… girl person does say that a couple of times, but her protests seem token at best. If all the characters had been exactly the same but the story had been changed so that the vampires got what was coming to them because our girl decided to hunt them down one by one and burn them alive or some such, I might have actually enjoyed the show. Not because I enjoy torture, mind you (even if it’s richly deserved), but because I enjoy characters who get shit done.
Watson: Sure, I would have watched that. I might even have enjoyed it too! But that’s not what we got. Instead, it was as if it was no big deal to be trapped in a house full of the worst stereotypes of male “lust” (scarequotes intentional). She just goes along with everything, follows their rules, never once complains about anything. It pissed me right off actually, because even if you take as given the initial premise of the situation, there’s still a lot of ways you could turn her into a character. But no, we can’t have that. She’s basically a blank page, something for the “real” characters to project onto; nothing but a blank-eyed mannequin to be put in whatever situations the writers decided would amuse or titillate the audience.
Artemis: Yeah, it was this really weird attitude of, “Well, it seems there’s no escape from this mansion and these guys just won’t leave me (or my neck) alone. Better make the best of it I guess. How about if we all enjoy a nice dinner together and talk about family? I am the guest after all, gotta be polite.” I can only assume the creators thought that giving her EXTREME optimism and persistence were positive character traits. Unfortunately, it seems these qualities cancelled out any sense of intelligence, survival instinct, or self-respect.
Watson: They might be positive traits, if that’s what she had. But I don’t see it – she just seems ineffectual and useless, with no particular goals or interests. She might as well have been a nicely-dressed goldfish.
Artemis: Not that any of the other characters were paragons of manhood, mind you.
Watson: Not even a little bit. Each had one, UND ONLY VUN, characteristic which was in turn their sole defining feature. Oh, except for them all being skeevy, rapey little assholes.
Artemis: Incidentally, while I understand that certain words and phrases sometimes don’t translate across languages particularly well, calling someone ‘Bitch-chan’ really is an all new low.
Watson: In my notes I actually wrote “this is fucking gross”.
Artemis: I was too busy internally screaming to make notes, so well done you.
Watson: You managed to keep the screaming internal? Impressive!
Artemis: Well, let’s not pat ourselves on the back too much. I only managed to get through 4 episodes of this, after all.
Watson: That’s 1.5 episodes more than I could stomach. We spent a bit of time at the start of our conversation talking about how popular this show was, and I suppose we have to accept that this really is what a significant number of people want to watch, but honestly I found it pretty horrible.
Artemis: As did I. I can accept that it had some technical merit, but apart from that, I really have nothing decent to say about it.
Watson: Me either. In fact, I’m getting a bad taste in my mouth just thinking about it, so let’s move on to the scores. How do you rate this?
Artemis: I’ll go for 2 stars, which puts it below Mirage of Blaze and around the same level of NOPE as Hand Shakers.
Watson: I find myself in a difficult position. See, I gave Mirage of Blaze 2.5 stars, and this actually has better production values than that show did. Obviously there are not enough middle fingers in the world to express how I feel about the content, but at the same time it is still somehow, unaccountably, popular enough for a second season. Can I really allow my personal feelings to give it a lower score?
Artemis: Sure, but it was also made about a decade later. And are you suggesting that the technical values are more important than actual story or characters? That’s not the Watson I know, surely. Please tell me you’re not seriously thinking about giving it a higher score than Mirage of Blaze.
Watson: Heh, had you going for a moment there. I’m going to give this 1 star, which is what Hand Shakers received and, coincidentally, is also about one star more than anyone sane would give it. That star is for having a level of technical proficiency, which I guess I do have to acknowledge.
Artemis: Nonetheless, that puts Diabolik Lovers officially in the running for Worst Anime of All Time.
Watson: You know, one of the interesting things about this project is how much better the earlier shows look in retrospect. I suppose the bright side is that we’re learning all the many, many ways in which anime can be terrible.
Artemis: Truly an educational experience for us both. Even if that experience (and this show, come to think of it) should probably have come with a trigger warning.
Question of the post: To those readers who’ve also seen Diabolik Lovers, what did you think? Does it deserve the title Worst Anime and why/why not?