Whether completely cringeworthy or simply aging out of relevancy, here are five shows such as DearS and Lucky Star that didn’t age gracefully.
Some anime go into the vaults of memory to be treasured forever. Then there are those that, when thought back on, leave a bad taste in the mouth. Certain titles are simply bound to age badly, whether the jokes go stale, new-and-improved versions cast a shadow over the original, or viewers look back and realize just how their tastes have evolved when it comes to recognizing toxic and problematic aspects of old favorites. Whatever the reason, here are five anime that haven’t managed to age with the times.
Sometimes, intense sexualization and infantilization of beautiful alien girls simply don’t look so good 17 years later. DearS occurs a year after alien contact was made by said aliens accidentally crashing into Tokyo Bay. The 150 aliens on board were taken in by Japanese society and nicknamed the DearS. When high schooler Takeya discovers a DearS on his way home from school, homeless and unconscious, Takeya begrudgingly brings her home with him and calls her Ren.
Ren is painfully naive, dependent, and childish, all served up in revealing and skintight costumes as she devotes herself to Takeya as a new permanent resident in his home. Why do DearS feel so painfully dated? After all, To Love Ru likewise features a high school boy and a cast of sexualized alien girls. Perhaps it’s that the latter show is upfront about being a harem anime, whose female characters aren’t dependent on the male lead for their survival. Ren is incredibly childlike yet highly sexualized, and the way she obviously needs Takeya places everything into uncomfortable gender roles.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with Lucky Star — it’s simply that, like any media that relies heavily on cultural context for its jokes to land, Lucky Star is aging. Since the anime began in 2007, it’s expected that there are a lot of references to Ace Attorney and Kamen Rider, but the more time that passes, the less and less relevant even those titles will be.
Some of Lucky Star’s jokes are sure to stay funny, but as the years pass, anyone who doesn’t know a lot about current and past Japanese culture simply won’t understand the references. Of course, his cultural relevancy made Lucky Star that much more fun while airing, so it was likely a decided trade-off — one that other anime titles such as Gintama have also made, so Lucky Star isn’t alone in this category. It’s just that as an older show, its jokes are wearing thinner.
Studio Deen’s Fate/Stay Night isn’t terrible. It’s just not very good either. The animation quality isn’t fantastic for 2006, the plot feels incredibly contrived in places, and it wasn’t long before Studio Ufotable took the series over and made it their own. Fate/stay night is a visual novel by Kinoko Nasu with three routes: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel. Studio Deen decided to adapt the first route into an anime in 2006. Saber and Shirou are the love interests in this route, which already makes things feel uncomfortable given that one of them has absolute power over the other as the Master.
Fate/stay Night ends on a bittersweet note that could have stopped there. However, Studio Ufotable picked up the series with the highly acclaimed Fate/Zero in 2011, providing an original backstory for the visual novel. After Zero’s success, Ufotable went ahead and animated Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel as well, finishing the trio of visual novel endings and leaving the original behind in the dirt. It’s impossible to age well when it’s another studio altogether that will be best remembered for the Fate franchise.
Masamune-Kun’s Revenge isn’t yet old — it came out in 2017 — but it feels old due to the fat-shaming, general premise, and basic nastiness of every character. Masamune was a child when he attempted to confess his love for Aki, a beautiful yet spoiled girl who instantly rejected him and dubbed him “Pig’s Foot” in reference to his weight. Fast-forward to high school and Masamune is a fit, handsome young man who has managed to become a complete narcissist in his quest to become good-looking. His grand revenge plan is to keep his past identity a secret while making Aki fall for him. Once she’s in love, he’ll cruelly reject her.
To reiterate, these are the two main characters audiences are supposed to care about: a spoiled selfish “brutal princess” who calls people “pig’s foot” and a self-centered boy who has done nothing but get fit and plan his revenge for years. Even if they have hidden depths, are those hidden depths worth mining? Everyone is self-obsessed and generally terrible, making this rom-com stand out like a sore thumb among other romantic comedies today and dating it an extra 20 years. The best shoujo titles these days feature genuinely likable casts.
The Loveless anime premiered in 2005, in which boys rather than catgirls were going to be the next big trend, although in this series, only virgins retain their animal aspects. This title is yaoi at its worst, featuring a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old forming an intimate bond during the show. On top of the carboy appeal, an evil organization called Septimal Moon may have caused the death of Ritsuka’s older brother, and spell battles are the best way to take them down.
Ritsuka teams up with his older love interest Soubi, and the two begin to do spell battles together in a strange homage to popular shounen at the time. Although the manga is currently ongoing, the age and power difference between the male leads places Loveless among some of the most toxic yaoi pairings in anime to date.
In the end, it’s sad to think that shows such as Lucky Star are likely destined for oblivion, but they were loved in their time and their influence on anime will never be forgotten. Other shows, despite their poor animation or subsequent remakes making them more and more inconsequential, will always be important for being the first. However, when it comes to dangerous sexualization, massive age differences, and simply unenjoyable stories or characters, it’s time to close those vaults of memory for good.