For all light, there is darkness. Behold our picks for the very worst anime of the year, from production meltdowns to downright frustrating and confusing plotting. The Anime News Network review team has carefully chosen the shows that left them the most frustrated, disappointed, or outright confused.
If you go back to the spring anime preview guide here on ANN, you’ll see that I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode of I Got a Cheat Skill in Another World. I found Yuuya, the overweight and bullied protagonist with a heart of gold, highly sympathetic—and was down to see him get his just rewards by suddenly becoming the sexiest man alive and having his isekai adventure. Better still, the show’s concept is inherently interesting: having someone balance life in a fantasy world with life on Earth—all while dealing with the fact that he’s not only become an Adonis but has the equivalent of superpowers. Unfortunately, this show has two glaring problems that hamstring it severely.
First, it uses its concept as nothing more than low-level wish fulfillment. Be it on earth or in the fantasy world, Yuuya stumbles into problems and solves them with either his good looks or superpowers—and has one beautiful woman or another fall head-over-heels for him in the process. From fires and bear attacks to assassins and monsters, every possible cliché that can happen does happen. It’s so lazy that it writes itself.
The other looming problem is that it looks terrible. While individual frames can seem beautifully detailed, this anime uses every possible budget-saving animation trick in the book—panning over static frames, extreme close-ups, or cutting away to scenery to avoid showing the action. It’s a mess visually—and one that only gets worse the longer the show goes on. This show is safe to skip—unless you have a morbid curiosity for anime trainwrecks.
Does anyone remember the late 2000s song “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO? Calling it a song is a bit generous since the actual reason it became a hit was off the back of its music video – in which the group’s frontman swings his speedo-holstered dick at the camera for several minutes. At one point, without even the semblance of clever lyrics, they resort to shouting “wiggle wiggle wiggle” into the listener’s ear. It’s the kind of dumb, gormless comedy that can be funny for a bit because of just how shockingly low-effort it is. However, that shock wears off sooner rather than later, and all you’re left with is a crude, lazy production that can only waste your time because so little time or thought was put into it.
KamiKatsu is like that, but it takes four hours instead of three minutes. That’s enough time for the hilarious shock of its awful animation, horrendous editing, and all-around embarrassing production values to wear off. Once that’s gone, all you’re left with is a poorly put-together comedy with only one mode: being as loud and purposefully crude as possible. It’s a show where the longest and most established running gag is that a side character is a pedophile who is constantly trying to have sex with a child. The only joke it can come up with for a sex cult is for everyone to get hearts in their eyes and moan loudly for the main character’s dick before background extras start yelling out the names of fetishes with no context. No craft, method, or thought is put into any of its gags, only constant, failed attempts to one-up itself on how loud, obnoxious, and purposefully taboo it can be with its subject matter. It’s the anime equivalent of early internet websites that cataloged Dead Baby jokes, which I guess is fitting since it’s animated like a miscarriage.
It’s not even that I find the show offensive. It would have to possess a cogent viewpoint or perspective to do that. As-is, I’m a person who grew up with unlimited access to the internet and an interest in anime. I have seen things far more shocking, perverse, and genuinely upsetting than anything this show could get away with on a TV broadcast. What upsets me is just how little effort or care went into any of it, taking what could have been a unique premise within the isekai landscape and turning it into a monotonous, boring endurance test that tries to excuse how bad it is by insisting it’s on purpose. You can make a great comedy that is dumb, crude, and obsessed with sex. You can make an interesting story that comments on the nature of religion with biting sarcasm and cynicism. You can do both! But doing so takes far more effort, thought, and inspiration than this mud pie of a show could ever muster.
Let me be as clear as possible: I don’t dislike this series for its content. Sure, it’s not my favorite, but I am up to date with the English manga releases. (Although I admit to always waiting until they’re on sale.) No, the greatest sin of A Girl and Her Guard Dog is the lack of care that went into its transformation from not-good manga to actual bad anime. Creator Hatsuharu‘s art isn’t gorgeous at the best of times, but rarely have I seen an anime take okay designs and run them through the ugly machine quite like this series did – this goes beyond simplifying Hatsuharu‘s work to make it easier to animate into a level of detail I’d have expected from an old TV commercial animated in Flash. (And some of those looked better.) Not even fancy cut-and-paste elements (like Keiya’s tattoo) make it better, because they don’t fit the rest of the artwork. Then, the animation is awkward and clunky, and for some unknown reason, someone decided that “brownish” was the right choice for the color palette. It is, in a word, unpleasant. After all of that, Keiya’s creepy approach to the age-gap romance pales in comparison. Is it one of the worst uses of the age gap in media I’ve consumed? Maybe; it certainly doesn’t help the series. But it’s really the combination of ghastly appearance and stilted animation that damned this. The content is barely a factor.
I don’t think there was ever a universe in which The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses turned out to be a particularly great anime because the source material lacks any remotely interesting or standout qualities. The premise is the same cookie-cutter formula we’ve seen from a million romantic comedies at point, which is to say that it focuses on the day-to-day interactions between a bland young boy and the girl he has a crush on who possesses some silly and personality-defying quirk. In this case, our hero Kaede likes a girl named Ai Mie, whose whole deal is that she is blind as a bat without her glasses, and yet she somehow manages to forget to wear them basically all the time. There you go, that’s the anime. Imagine whatever generic sitcom plot you could think up in half a second based on that premise, and more likely than not, you’ll put about as much work into writing a story for The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses. “Ai accidentally calls Kaede when she meant to call someone else.” “Ai happens to stumble upon Kaede as he’s buying her a present, but she can’t see it!” “Ai tries to eat a food, and fails.” “Ai maybe or maybe doesn’t see proof of Kaede’s embarrassing love of social media games; shenanigans ensue.” The point is, even if the best studio in the world put this adaptation together, the best result we’d get would be an incredibly forgettable middle-school rom-com that you’re just as likely to forget even exists the minute the credits roll after Episode 1.
Here’s the thing, though: This is a GoHands joint. Now, to be as fair as I can possibly be, The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses is, by a fair margin, the least deranged production that GoHands has been a part of. Outside of some of the truly heinous cinematography that we were treated to in its first episode, the majority of The Girl I Like is shot like any other random rom-com would be: A mostly static camera, lots of shot-reverse-shot dialogue scenes, and a general lack of the visual insanity that defines most GoHands productions.
It’s still ugly as sin, though. The thing about GoHands that other, more casual GoHands viewers tend to forget is that it isn’t just the terrible CGI camera movements that make their anime so legendarily terrible to behold. It’s the hideous and incompetently composited CGI backgrounds; the nauseating and greasy color filters; the genuinely baffling use of fish-eye lenses and other random distortions to frame completely normal dialogue exchanges; the insistence of applying overblown lighting effects, and those goddamned little dust-mote floaties to sequences with no rhyme or reason. All of these studio trademarks are alive and well in The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses, making it such a catastrophe. It takes an otherwise utterly forgettable nothing-burger of a show. It turns it into a weird, uncanny piece of found art that looks like it was shot on location on the surface of Venus by a team of aliens who have only ever heard whispers of the creature known as the “hoo-man” from their ancient myths. It’s probably the single most competent and functional show that GoHands has ever produced, and it still stands out as one of the worst series that 2023 had to offer.
KamiKatsu: Working for God in a Godless World
For a hot minute, my shortlist for this annual dishonor was a tie between Am I Actually the Strongest? and In Another World With My Smartphone Season 2, in a matchup that could only be called “Battle of the Blands.” But as depressing as those shows were, they still couldn’t manage to be the worst isekai anime or anime, period, in a year where KamiKatsu found way more interesting ways to suck. Sure, Smartphone and Strongest were objectively bad, but at least they’re bad in a way where they still technically, mostly, held together. KamiKatsu blew up like a SpaceX rocket all over its launchpad, with the ground crew then trying to scrape together what pieces were left into a full season of a show. It’s a series that seemingly realized the immediate impossibility of its success and so attempted to pivot into a “So Bad It’s Good” presentation as a saving throw, only to then thoroughly fail at that. That’s the secret sauce that makes KamiKatsu the hot new menu item at a restaurant for people who hate themselves. It’s fundamentally nonfunctional, as watching just a few minutes of it will make abundantly clear how crucial basic editing skills are for putting any kind of video production together. To have it then try to embrace that incompetence, to attempt to convince me and you and all the other kids watching at home that “No, see, this is bad on purpose!” is just insulting. All the objectively hilarious traced-over tractor footage in the world can’t cover up what a miserable work KamiKatsu is—a show about an atheist discovering the real powers of God, which ironically should kill any faith you might have in the existence of a kind and loving higher power.
KamiKatsu: Working for God in a Godless World
I don’t feel like being mean this year, so I’m granting this ignoble distinction to a show that would wear it like a medal of honor. You can’t watch KamiKatsu without getting the sense that someone is playing a prank, and you, the viewer, are either in on it or the butt of it. To an extent, I respect the brazenness. This year’s slate suffered from numerous notable production delays and mishaps, so a show that openly flaunts its time- and cost-saving measures seem almost admirable. If we were to reduce the anime-watching experience to the consumption of baffling gifs, then KamiKatsu could contend for top honors.
Unfortunately, it suffers from the affliction of having to be a real show, and no amount of self-aware adaptational irreverence softens the sting of fumbled storytelling fundamentals and unfunny humor. It’s at its worst when it’s taking itself seriously, undermining that seriousness with a tasteless joke, and then doubling down on its original supposedly sincere takedown of religious dogma. It’s half-baked if I’m being generous and cynically lazy if I’m being accurate. I can laugh along with the idea of KamiKatsu, but the experience of KamiKatsu is best avoided.
I thought Horimiya was fine. It was nothing too crazy but an OK romance, slice-of-life series to pass the time. I didn’t love it as much as everybody else did, and I had some issues, particularly with some of the character dynamics that I worry the series glossed over. Still, it was, by and large, a mostly forgivable show. Horimiya: The Missing Pieces is a weird installment because I don’t think I’ve ever watched something like this before except for maybe The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. (How’s that for a deep cut?)
The Missing Pieces is a sequel, but not really, as it’s an adaptation of the chapters passed over when season one was adapted. The result is a bizarre sequel series that arguably takes place alongside season one, but it’s never made clear. There are some visual indicators at times to give you an idea of where certain characters are in their journey. The season tries to organize the chapters in a way that is more thematically consistent rather than linearly. Still, all that does is confuse me about some characters’ actions. Are some characters acting weird and distant because they haven’t had certain conversations from season one yet? The antics are fun, and the presentation is clean, but nothing about the season grips me.
There are a lot of shows this year that straight up made me mad, from Shield Hero to The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses, but Horimiya: The Missing Pieces just bored me, and I feel like that’s more egregious because at least the others left some impact. This show bored me at its best and just felt obnoxious at its worst, as if the producers felt like the series had enough gripping power that they could get away with this type of structure and still entice a lot of people. Maybe that works for others, but it didn’t work for me.
If anything, this season made me want to avoid season one, with Kyouko now being one of my least favorite leads in a romantic slice of life because of how she goes about doing things and how the series treats her. She’s obnoxious, she’s selfish, and she very rarely apologizes for anything, but she is the one who gets to make the big speech at the end of the series about how everything changes, and we should all be thankful for the friends we made along the way. There are a lot of shows in my “Best of” list that feel like quintessential examples of why I find slice-of-life and romance anime so enticing. Horimiya: The Missing Pieces is an example of why I am hesitant to recommend those shows to people, and that’s never a good sign.
A Girl and Her Guard Dog
Would anyone believe me if I said that regardless of the nature of his relationship with Isaku, the teenage girl he’s raised for the last decade, I think Keiya is a total creep? I mean, it’s true. Forget the forbidden romance angle for a minute. You are enrolling in high school when you’re a grown adult? Storming into a room and firing a room because a girl you care about (whether it’s in a paternal way or romantic way) is talking to some boys? Then sulking at the idea of her wearing a swimsuit to the beach? When that same girl says she likes you, you shove her down, lick her hands, and grab her boob before you even kiss her? You say cheeseball lines like, “You’ve really grown up… Into the body type I like, I mean.” Keiya just sucks, and his eyes are about as soulful as a shark’s.
A romance with an unlikable male lead is dead on arrival for me, but watching the characters grow increasingly off-model with every episode was fun. They shift and deform with every shot, their features floating all over their face and their proportions shifting to look like a child’s drawing. Even in the best of circumstances, a steamy sex scene won’t land when he’s caressing her face with a hand that looks like a glove made of playdough. You can’t appreciate the beauty of a beach scene much when the world is washed out beige and brownish-pink, can you? It’s just an ugly show in spirit and appearance.
I’ll forward this by saying that I didn’t watch many “bad” shows this year, compared to most other years. To begin with, I am strict about dropping shows that don’t grab me, and, as I was busy this year, I became much less tolerant of things that seemed like a big waste of my time. I avoided shows I felt I wouldn’t like and I wasn’t about to make time to pick one just to dunk on. (Though, to each their own if you are the kind of person who enjoys hate-watching and some hilariously bad shows—especially my colleagues who are doing all of us a great service.)
That said, while it was an extremely limited pool for the title of “worst”, MF Ghost is totally deserving of this prize. This sequel to the iconic street-racing series, Initial D, falls like a flat tire. Everything about it is flat: the animation, the characters, the pacing. It has shockingly little energy for a series that is supposed to embody a high-octane sport. High-energy dance music plays but no amount of BPMs can make up for the lack of motivation or emotion presented on-screen. The CG cars are competently animated, but story-wise the races lack stakes and are often dragged by an excessive number of long technical explanations. The characters are one-dimensional with very little thought about what drives them. It doesn’t help that much of the animation and direction for the scenes off-the-track are sterile with very little expression, leaving nothing to fuel investment from the audience.
I don’t think this attempt to modernize the classic is up to speed. Some tropes and shop talk feel dated or inaccessible to more modern newcomers—and without the allure and danger of the illegal street racing scene, MF Ghost lacks the push its predecessor had. Not to mention, any and all attempts at drama and humor are pretty groan-worthy, unable to keep up with more modern sensibilities. It feels like someone took all the worst parts of Initial D and cobbled them together into one vehicle. It’s a reminder that we’re no longer “running in the 90s” and have left them behind a long time ago. Nowadays, anime are always racing to the top—and a sequel alone isn’t enough keep up. Lacking any of the specs of skills to match modern momentums, MF Ghost earns last place.
This year’s relaunch of Rurouni Kenshin with a shiny new anime is symptomatic of a larger industry problem. Unlike its section mates above, the series is neither falling apart artistically nor narratively. Rurouni Kenshin is emblematic of an industry that places profits above people. Nobuhiro Watsuki should easily be a persona non grata instead of rewarded with continuing publishing deals and profits from a brand-spankin’ new anime version of what is, at best, a cool sword-fight anime where the main character has a catchphrase.
I watched the original series on tape decades ago, and I won’t deny it’s a fun narrative. I was a fan of the “Samurai X” OAVs, and Aoshi was an early anime crush. Yet, this far on, there’s nothing in the series you couldn’t get from Hell’s Paradise or any other historical action spectacle. This remake was hardly needed, but its existence reflects how little survivors mean in the face of a lucrative deal for publishers.
The Mega-Poll Results!
Many of you voted in our poll to elect your own top anime series of the year! Perhaps unsurprisingly, it looks like our readers’ tastes aren’t too far away from the critics. Even though it’s still running, over half of ANN readers included Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End in their top 10. The gap between first and second place was rather substantial, with The Apothecary Diaries included in a little over 30% of all voters’ picks. Spy×Family season three rounded out the top three with 29.9%, a hair’s breadth behind The Apothecary Diaries.
- Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
- The Apothecary Diaries
- Spy×Family (TV 3)
- Oshi no Ko (TV)
- Vinland Saga (TV 2)
- Skip and Loafer (TV)
- Jujutsu Kaisen (TV 2)
- Pluto (ONA)
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (TV 2)
- Attack on Titan Final Season THE FINAL CHAPTERS (TV)
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead fans, fear not. The anime came in at #11, beaten by Attack on Titan Final Season THE FINAL CHAPTERS by 0.5%.