One of my most popular editorials to date is the one where I talked about how liking things is good and being a stuck up punk about tastes if only making everyone you interact with annoyed. Titled Stop Complaining and Enjoy, I used my platform here to vent about what had been bugging me on Twitter and Discord and just built up to the point where I ranted for a bit while trying to sound at least mildly respectable. Unsurprisingly, people dislike elitism so that post did really well. While today’s topic falls under a similar umbrella, it’s slightly different in that most people (at least from my understanding) widely disliked the two shows I’m going to name as my guilty pleasures. Without further ado, let’s talk about why I absolutely love two shows that I know very well are actually terrible.
Spring 2017 is the lovely season of hot garbage, at least from the shows I’ve picked to watch, with the likes of Clockwork Planet, Hinako Note, and everyone’s favourite “Why am I watching this; how is it even legal” show, Eromanga-sensei airing and at least making me sigh as I look at my Crunchyroll queue wondering why I’m still doing this to myself. Jokes aside, I seemed to have accidentally picked all of the worst shows to watch this season and while I’m falling behind on two of them prolonging the inevitable pain if I even choose to continue them, there’s one show I know very well is awful and will not argue with anyone trying to tell me the show is bad because I completely agree yet continue to watch. As many probably guessed, that show is A-1 Pictures’ production this season, Eromanga-sensei.
No mater how I look at it, it’s increasingly clear that this show is bad. Characters are sporadic and change motivation in the blink of an eye, plot points are predictable and kind of lazy, there’s at least one girl for everyone that’s straight up unlikable, the show blatantly sexualises a cast of 12 year-olds (which is a debate I’ve already gone into in the past, but understandably offputting nonetheless), and features the most obvious incestuous romantic development it’s only beaten by shows that straight up don’t care about building romantic tension. With all of this said, I’m having the same amount of fun (if not ever so slightly less) with Eromanga-sensei that I am with the second season of Boku no Hero Academia that’s airing alongside it and am genuinely enjoying the former to the point where I’ve started to go out of my way to avoid spoilers.
What’s interesting though is the idea of liking something while acknowledging, without anyone talking me into it — just coming to this conclusion all on my own, that it’s terrible. While I could have done research into why people have guilty pleasures, this topic in general felt like one much too subjective to have fun writing about from an objective standpoint. I’ve said a few times on Twitter than I don’t know why I like Eromanga-sensei and while that’s partially true, what is a more accurate explanation is I don’t know how to explain why I like Eromanga-sensei in 140 character messages.
Why I like Eromanga-sensei is probably the same reason I like a similar show that I’m going to mention later in the post. The show somehow poorly hides all of it’s flaws in plain view with a mask of fun and abnormality; destroying it’s audience’s suspension of disbelief just enough so that it works but not so much that it doesn’t have an audience. To help explain exactly what I mean, allow me to share a screenshot.
Popular author while still in high school? Somewhat unbelievable. Having a 12 year old little sister that draws erotic illustrations? Less believable. Having a 14 year old character who’s such a popular author and somehow gets so much money for an anime licensing deal that she can buy a single-family home anywhere let alone the metropolitan area? A literal spit in the face of suspension of disbelief. This is one of those excellent out of context screenshots that make you laugh if you know nothing about the show at hand, but even with the context the situation is completely unbelievable. From there the show keeps going but it doesn’t push it’s boundaries like shows similar to Kill la Kill or Glasslip. At it’s core level, what I want to say is happening here is that it’s hiding it’s flaws in plain sight.
I want to say that Eromanga-sensei knows it’s a bad show. A-1 Pictures knows what they’re adapting is extremely niche and rather than try to fix that’s clearly broken, they’re embracing it and using it to their advantage. Rather than highlighting or trying to ignore these moments of abnormality, Eromanga-sensei quickly adopts them as normal without making every bizarre moment seem completely unacknowledged. Elf owns a house? Well that’s out of the ordinary and we’ll show we understand it’s out of the ordinary but it’s the world we live in now so oh well. Filling the episodes with banter and antics with a highlight on visual things like how cute Sagiri is or how appealing her drawings are also serves to kind of steer away from the obvious lolicon/siscon plot from an attention standpoint. Sure it’s kinda weird that the show is kind of just treating lolicon and siscon as more or less normal, but those moments never overextend. Eromanga-sensei doesn’t test it’s luck, it just plays it’s hand to the best of it’s abilities.
But if this is the case, why isn’t Eromanga-sensei heralded as clever in how awful it is or attracting a larger audience to observe the train wreck? Well because it is still awful and it is still a train wreck. The fact remains that this show is a guilty pleasure. For every aforementioned reason that I’m still watching the show, theres another reason not to watch it and when all of my reasons might not be good enough in the first place, it’s not a surprise that a lot of people dislike it. Normalised lolicon and siscon is weird to people, sexualising your entire cast of 12 to 14 year-olds is weird and off-putting, treating incest as something worth rooting for is incredibly off-putting, having situations that shatter suspension of disbelief is a total no-go for some people, and overall while Eromanga-sensei to me is clever in how it treats the fact that it’s terrible, the fact that it’s terrible in the first place removes the enjoyment factor for most people.
What’s interesting is while I have very few memories left of it from the time I watched it, I can only remember my positive experiences with Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (or Oreimo). I remember distinctly coming away from the show and genuinely enjoying it, past me even gave each season a 9 and an 8 respectively on MAL, but I know even without remembering it that there were huge flaws I chose to ignore or at least live with the existence of. While I don’t know for certain since I haven’t seen the show in a long time and have been meaning to rewatch it, my guess is that Oreimo pulled the exact same thing Eromanga-sensei did. While Eromanga-sensei feels like Oreimo in every way right down to the ClariS opening, it’s interesting because (with all jokes aside) the cast in Eromanga-sensei is different and I’d argue more enjoyable than the cast in Oreimo.
The setting is different, the main character’s relation to their little sister is different, the supporting cast is different, the conflict and how the plot progresses is different, but the shows feel incredibly similar. Aside from a siscon plotline, what I think caused this is the two stories being presented in nearly identical ways, which is no doubt due to the same original creator and animation studio being behind both shows. That makes sense, at least, as while I admit I enjoy both shows a lot, it’s clear to me that they’re guilty pleasures and if something works once why not present something very similar in the same way?
So what that brings us to eventually is back around to the general topic of guilty pleasures. While every person is different so I can’t say for sure, I’d imagine it’s easier to come around to like shows that have one thing going for them and don’t willingly accept that they’re awful. Even with Mekakucity Actors being my least favourite anime of all time, I can see why people would like it since it does everything that Eromanga-sensei is doing by hiding it’s flaws in plain sight. Same goes for Mayoiga, Kantai Collection, and well any diomedia show, really. Putting everything you have out there, including all of your flaws even if there is a lot, is bound to at least make some people have a good time with your production.
Why shows like Glasslip are so disliked on an easily larger scale is because rather than put it all out there, the production is confusing and hard to follow. Glasslip took itself too seriously and when it tried to go deep or expand on a complex plot point, it just lost everyone by remaining inconsistent and never explaining why. It was hard to follow and with nothing to give the audience a reason to put forth effort and try to understand it, the audience it could have had was thrown away. This isn’t to say no one likes Glasslip, because there are some of you special few out there, but a large majority of people heavily dislike the production. However, I’d argue that if Glasslip had an easier plotline to understand, it’d be more popular than any of the other shows I mentioned. A genuinely good show with writing and presentation that deeply connects to it’s audience will always be better than guilty pleasures, but how many shows fail to become genuinely good and fall into just being bad are interesting and what makes them miss the guilty pleasure failsafe is something interesting to think about.
Thank you as always for reading this week’s editorial! I low-key just wanted an excuse to talk about Eromanga-sensei but this turned into a rather good post if I do say so myself. As always, if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog you can follow me on Twitter! I’d love to hear all of your opinions about guilty pleasures or how you feel about your favourite guilty pleasure, so feel free to leave a comment! I swear I read all of them. With that said, I’ll see you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by pixiv artist まかだみぁ.