I’m often asked to give recommendations for anime I think people should watch. While that’s a simple request, the answer is maybe a little more complicated for myself and our writers at Beneath the Tangles. We have series that we think are beneficial for our readers to watch; those that are both beneficial and entertaining; and series that are fun, but not necessarily ones we’d recommend because we’d consider them “morally gray.” This final group of anime are comprised of shows you generally wouldn’t see us discuss here and that many of writers might avoid because of excessive fanservice, nihilistic themes, graphic violence, themes that don’t jive with our beliefs, etc. Still, there’s still value in many of these shows, and they might be worth the watch, which is why we’ll be giving our top five lists of morally gray anime today. But, of course, viewer beware.
We’re blessed to have iblessall joining us as our guest today. You know him from Mage in the Barrel, a wonderful and very active anime blog. I highly encourage you check it out – and perhaps very germane to our discussion today, click over and see iblessall’s critique of Maria the Virgin Witch.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo
- White Album 2
- Junketsu no Maria
- Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere
For me, making a decision on whether or not to recommend a show to someone usually comes down to one particular question: do the good things about this show outweigh the bad to make it worth watching? In truth, I’m not sure any of the shows on this list are conclusively among those whose troubling elements override the good pieces (most shows like that I never even bothered to finish), but all of them certainly exist much closer to the line than my favorites do. Anyone familiar with the first two titles on my list should understand why they’re there, but the final three merit a bit more explanation. White Album 2’s ending troubles me a great deal because, although the story as a whole functions a cautionary tale, the lack of offered alternatives or even the faintest hint of possible reconciliation makes the show feel incredibly nihilistic and hopeless to me. Junketsu no Maria (on which I’ve written elsewhere and will write again) worries me with both its portrayal of Catholicism and its dangerously simplistic morality, traits that sadly compromise the quality of its likable cast. Finally, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere boasts mostly boilerplate ecchi, but it’s so copious and so egregious that I always have to pause before recommending.
- Oretachi Tsubasa wa Nai
- Monogatari Series
- Perfect Blue
- Shokugeki no Souma
OreTsuba is one anime I will always praise and never recommend. It’s less grey and more black, with an obscene amount of fan service, especially the uncensored version. But the storyboarding? Top notch. This is an amazing example of a really well adapted VN. The Monogatari series is perhaps plenty infamous already, but between fan service, toothbrushes, and the like, it’s tough to rec this to others. Morally grey aside, it is also extremely conversation based, and relies heavily on Japanese culture and language puns, making it even harder to rec. Baccano has a different kind of problem, with it being overall a very violent show, which some Christians may have problems with, but I rate the show very highly. Perfect Blue, like many works by Satoshi Kon, is wonderfully directed, but the content is most definitely mature and has a couple disturbing scenes. The last one you might notice only just started airing, so I might be jumping the gun, but I thoroughly enjoy the Shokugeki no Souma manga and consider to be a surprisingly well done shounen. But that fan service is really extreme. Read the rest of this entry
In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers. For today’s post, we received the following from Projected Realities:
My heart had been kind of hurting because of Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”… not so much because of what it did to the Biblical story (that much I can deal with and ignore, though Noah ended up being a jerk) but because of how much I really felt like it pushed the limits of its PG-13 rating in ways that I’m really not comfortable with. And I was wondering if any of you guys had ever had to do that with a story, where you otherwise enjoy said story but have to make your “yes or no” opinion of it more complex than it should have had to be, because the sometimes-otherwise-good story includes various pieces of objectionable content that run the risk of making it really offensive.
TWWK: Thanks for the question! As a Christian watching anime, I’m almost exclusively watching series in that category (ha!). Well…maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly sometimes feels that way. Some anime are so objectionable that avoid them entirely, but many walk that fine line. Those are the series where I need to really make a discerning decision – what’s the value of this series? How is it affecting me? Should I continue watching?
We probably all have a lot of anime series that fit this category. And in fact, the movie Noah might fit here for me as well.
Japesland: I actually quite like Noah, and I think many people don’t realize that it gains much inspiration from extra-biblical texts of the same flood account. But considering your sentiments on it, that obviously is not your issue (as you stated). That aside, however, I can definitely empathize with your situation, and I can think of one Scriptural passage with two real life applications of my own.
The passage you probably know all too well is I Corinthians 10, in which Paul addresses the topic of eating meat sacrificed to idols. To some this was sinful, while to others it was not. The deciding factor here was that it was sinful based primarily on their individual reactions and attitudes toward it.
The two shows of this that come to mind in my personal life are Game of Thrones (sorry, not an anime!) and the Monogatari series.
I recently re-watched Oretachi ni Tsubasa ha Nai with some friends. The first time I watched, I was impressed with it, but the second time, I could really appreciate just how amazing this anime is at times. So why have so few people seen it, even fewer people enjoyed it, and even fewer recommend it? Well, because it’s an anime that’s pretty bad at first glance. And second glance, and third glance. In fact, you could watch half the episodes and still think it’s absolute trash, and for good reason. This show is filled with fan service and not just your normal amounts of fan service, but levels that make you forget there is any semblance of plot.
Wait, what plot?
If there was plot, then maybe people would put up with the absurd amounts of fan service, but a show with no plot and pure service is bound to only attract a certain kind of audience. Indeed, its reputation is overall quite negative, and I honestly can’t deny it.
OreTsuba follows the lives of 3 different male protagonists and divides the screen time between them. While slowly showing their daily lives with multiple girls, you get all kinds of fan service from panty shots to half naked girls, and an extra side of obscene sexual jokes. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is quite random and other than even more random asides that make little sense, there is little hint of any logical plot. It goes so far as to even have sex. Magic forest sex, in fact. There are no dolphins here. But don’t worry; you’ll drop it before then. Truly this show takes fan service to a whole new level (granted, it wouldn’t be the first to do so) and thus you get a show which would never be worth your time, in addition to just having content that can leave you feeling anywhere from annoyed to disgusted, depending on your tolerance.
And yet despite the obscene levels of fan service and sexual tendencies, despite the initial lack of any logical plot, despite everything that would stop someone from continuing to watch, OreTsuba, at its core, is one of the best storyboarded anime in recent times and one of the most impressive VN to anime adaptations. I can’t say anything without spoiling it, but after that second watch, I could really see how much thought was put into making this anime, and it was incredibly well done. There are a surprising number of relevant things that you would normally never notice amidst the cesspool of content and to see it all slowly come together in a way that is truly extraordinarily done made the watch worth it, at least for me.