You voted. We watched. This is the fifth installment of a series of conversations between Watson and myself about anime shows that have been deemed worthy contenders for the title of Worst Anime of All Time.
As with Mirage of Blaze, Hand Shakers, Vampire Holmes, and Diabolik Lovers, we’re not aiming just to poke fun at widely unpopular anime for our own amusement (though we certainly hope these articles are fun to read), but rather to have a frank discussion about what exactly makes these shows so bad in the first place. We’re also genuinely curious to find out whether or not these anime are indeed as bad as their reputations suggest.
So sit back, enjoy, and do let us know your own opinions in the comments.
Artemis: Well, here we are again with our first Really That Bad? title of the new year. Why don’t you start us off, Watson?
Watson: Well… it wasn’t terrible.
Artemis: That’s your summary of the show?
Watson: Kind of, yeah. I have to say I was expecting something way worse. The last few shows have been… well, pretty dire. But Isuca actually had some redeeming features that I think are worth discussing.
Artemis: I don’t know if I’d say ‘redeeming features’ per se, but I agree that in some respects at least, Isuca wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been anticipating.
Watson: That counts as a compliment around here, so let’s roll with it!
Artemis: So what tops your list for notable positive (or just not-terrible) qualities?
Watson: Way I saw it, there were three main things that stood out. First, the show wasn’t BORING – things happened, there was drama and conflict, and people took action to resolve them. That’s actually a pleasing novelty.
Artemis: Certainly a step above, say, Diabolik Lovers, which really suffered from a lack of agency. Or Vampire Holmes, which suffered from a lack of… well, everything.
Watson: Setting the bar pretty low, I know.
Artemis: Although that also means that Vampire Holmes thankfully didn’t suffer from excessive fanservice either. But we can come back to that – please, continue.
Watson: Second thing I liked was that there were distinct characters, and at least some of them developed. The main characters all had reasons for why they acted the way they did, and those reasons seemed to respond to events around them. Some of the others were a bit of a blank slate, or one dimensional, but it wasn’t a complete wasteland in terms of characterisation.
Artemis: Fair enough. I’d argue that a lot of said character traits and development were surface-level at best, but I agree that there was at least some characterisation going on which, thanks to the kinds of titles we’re watching, I no longer take for granted.
Watson: Indeed. And thirdly, there was intra-character conflict, which was believable (relatively speaking, anyway) in terms of their situation and motivations. Do you know how long it’s been since we watched a show that had that?
Watson: Neither do I, but it feels like a real long time! I also remember liking the way one of the characters responded when asked why they didn’t have a job: “I can’t fight the waves of recession.” Lol.
Artemis: I’ll admit there were one or two moments of humour I found genuinely funny here, which again, when you think about what we’ve been watching lately is a pretty major achievement.
Watson: Yeah. I guess a kind of Stockholm Syndrome is setting in at about this point in our journey.
Artemis: Although I will also point out that most of the ‘humour’ in this case was of the “characters constantly faceplant into boobs, women get stripped of their clothing and dignity in increments” variety. To be clear, I don’t find these kinds of situations unfunny because I too am a woman and it therefore offends me personally. I find it unfunny because at its core, it’s really just not funny.
Watson: Really? I didn’t think those moments (and there were MANY) were intended as humour. I thought they were mindless titillation.
Artemis: That too, but after so many years of certain character stereotypes and sexual slapstick comedy sinking in within the medium, I think a certain audience has been well-trained by this point to laugh at it.
Watson: Either way, it certainly wasn’t subtle. Clothing rips, random partial nudity, accidental groping and the like happened a LOT, and for reasons which were only tangentially related to the action in each episode. It was as if the creators could only bring themselves to produce the flimsiest of excuses for the male character to end up with someone sitting on his face. Again.
Artemis: Absolutely, but it got worse. There were also the moments where shit got rapey. Because while our resident high school demon slayer, cat girl, and shrine maiden all quite blatantly threw themselves at our main guy (even when pretending otherwise), there were definitely some rather less benign instances of fanservice. You know the drill – some near tentacle-rape (because demons), people being forced to make out (because demons), some girls get bitten by rats and end up rolling around in their underwear (because demons)…
Watson: I’m not sure I do know the drill, actually. Perhaps I haven’t watched enough dodgy anime to become familiar with it.
Artemis: Lucky you. Sometimes I genuinely wonder whether the staff on any given generic ‘sexy’ anime title really do just sit around a table in some conference room, give each other five minutes to scrawl some keywords on bits of paper, and then throw them into a hat to take turns on pulling out the characters/plot points. “And the characters for this show will be… a high school student! With confidence issues about… her bust size! Her sidekick will be… a cat demon! With her main physical feature… hilariously enormous breasts!
Watson: Yes, even I can see that these sorts of things are getting tiresomely clichéd. It’s a pity, because if you ignored one or two of the most egregiously formulaic and just plain dumb elements, the show probably wouldn’t have struck me as being one of the worst out there to begin with.
Artemis: Sure, but it’s hard to ignore something when it’s literally being shoved in your face every other minute.
Watson: I will grant you that. But then again, we certainly have seen worse, so for the purposes of this series of articles, does Isuca qualify as still being one of the worst examples of anime out there? I’d argue not.
Artemis: I will say that Isuca did strike me as being fairly average. Average bad, that is, but still average. And you’re right, we have seen worse, in terms of sexuality and consent/agency (Hand Shakers, Diabolik Lovers), story (Vampire Holmes), and pacing (Mirage of Blaze). Of course, none of this by any means makes Isuca actually good, but it also makes it not The Worst, which is about as charitable as I feel like being towards it.
Watson: All in all, pretty forgettable, then. Which maybe doesn’t sound like a compliment, but almost could be in that it’s not been forever burned into my memory. Even the technical aspects like music and animation were just… there. The trend towards the “monster of the week” format is also probably responsible for at least some of Isuca’s general forgettableness, complete with the characters constantly yelling the names of their various special attack methods. Why is that, by the way?
Artemis: It’s something of a long-standing tradition among certain shows, especially those with an action bent and aimed at young teens. In fact, it’s probably what some people remember most about a few older titles like Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z. I’ve never actually researched that particular topic, but I imagine it makes the action seem cooler to some viewers. It also (I assume) serves to create handy catch-phrases. If something is easily repeatable, something is easily shared.
Watson: Hmm, makes sense. Thanks for explaining that, I’ve always wondered about it. Anyway, let’s wrap things up.
Artemis: Were we giving scores out of 5?
Watson: I think we started by rating out of 10, but including the top half of that range may have been just a tad over-optimistic.
Artemis: In that case, I’d give it a 3.
Watson: Yeah, I’d go with that. It’s the same as I gave Mirage of Blaze, and while this show wasn’t remotely as boring for me, it has pretty big problems elsewhere.
Artemis: I believe I gave Mirage of Blaze a 3 as well, while every other title we’ve covered so far for this article series has received lower.
Watson: There you have it, folks. We don’t recommend anyone watch Isuca, but if you do we can at least say that it (probably) won’t scar you for life. You’re welcome.
Question of the post: To any readers who’ve also seen Isuca, what did you make of it? Does it deserve the title of Worst Anime, and why/why not?