Let's explore the various elements that make a good anime!
We all have our own reasons for loving anime. We feel drawn to the action, the stories, the characters or the art style and animation. But what attributes can we use to qualify something as a "good anime"? Any person who has ever watched an anime has attempted to answer this question. Some people are willing to fight tooth and nail to defend the honour of their favourite series. In their zeal, they may have shot down another’s opinions on what they think are good anime series (admit it, we are all guilty of a little anime elitism.) Why? What point are we really trying to prove? Is our favourite anime objectively the best? Do all other anime pale in comparison? Is only one genre or one series in that genre "good"? I certainly do not think so. It is impossible for anyone to decipher which anime is the best. What we can do is evaluate which elements make a particular anime good, or even great. And that, my friends, is why we are here.
It is easy to get lost in the world of anime. Anime is a form of art, and it is one of the most creative and visually pleasing ways to express creativity and originality. The great thing about anime is that there is something for everybody, whether you like romance, slice of life, action, comedy, thriller, horror, psychological thriller, drama, mainstream or even hentai. Whatever floats your boat - there's good anime in every genre! Good anime has the capability to blow people’s minds. It can turn the most refined person imaginable into a complete sadsack emo. Some anime are so popular that they seep into mainstream culture. It seems like everyone has heard of these series, even non-anime fans. I bet you know exactly what I mean. What was the first anime that popped into mind? But does being famous or nostalgic necessarily make a classic anime good? From this kind of notoriety, nostalgia is born. Personal nostalgia can blind people to different experiences of anime. If you are obsessed with a certain series, maybe the one that got you into anime, you are going to love it forever, regardless of its quality. That is okay. People watch anime for the purpose of entertainment. Just like everything in life, though, some things are truly superior in the genre. Let us look at what makes an anime "good".
The overall flow of a series can either make or break an anime!
The story and the pacing of the story are some of the most crucial elements in making good anime, or any other form of entertainment. When you are reading the synopsis for a certain show, you are more likely to watch the one that sounds the most creative and enjoyable. When executed correctly, the story and plot are what make the entire anime noteworthy. Take Higurashi No Naku Korno ni as an example. Insert brain explosion here. Anyone who has seen Higurashi knows that it is one hell of a ride. The story and the pacing create an almost torturous tension. The plot churns up questions for us, with answers that only seem to leave us asking more. At the end, just when we feel we are about to die if we don't find out what is going on, we get our answers. The endings can also make us feel like big idiots for not knowing what was going on right off the bat. I have heard some people diss other attributes like the art and animation of Higurashi. Some people have even complained that the music does not live up to certain standards. In my mind, though, the story alone makes Higurashi an unforgettable anime.
Some pacing, however, does not reach the bar. Angel Beats is a very well-known, even notorious, tear jerker. Unfortunately, the ending feels rushed – as if the animators’ budget ran out and they had to close the story quickly. It leaves us dissatisfied. Despite that, many regard it as a good teen drama anime. A horror anime known as Another, is famous for its unsettling death scenes, yet its pacing is so slow, it had viewers everywhere pointing at their TV screens yelling, ’just get to the point already!’ Many fans think that both series had amazing potential, but lacked the punch that a tight plot would have created. However, both shows have gorgeous animation, great music and a solid fan base. This of course means, that story pacing is not everything when making good anime. Ouran High School Host Club’s story may not be deep or life changing but its fun, relatable characters turn the show into one of the best romance/reversed harem anime out there.
Beautiful art, music, and characters in anime are priceless!
Art, animation, music and characters can turn a boring show into an amazing show. Long running series like Fairy Tail arguably do not even have a story. These ones sometimes rely on filler episodes. It seems like fluff, right? But people love it. There is a fine balance between story, characters, animation, art style and music. Even if a show is seriously lacking one of these attributes, it can be saved by the others.
Does an anime have to be perfect to be good? Does a good anime necessarily have to have good animation, music, or story? Not necessarily. As long as one aspect of an anime is memorable and well done, I think that makes it objectively a good anime.
Another thing to take into consideration is an anime’s fan base. That is right; even the most hated, notorious, infamous anime (cough cough, School Days, cough) have people who love them. There is always someone willing to defend an anime series, even if it seems the whole world is against them. You know how the saying goes: one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The fans of a show alone can build up its quality. If enough people love a show, and are a respectable fan base, people will in turn respect the show. Prime examples of this are Fairy Tail, Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z and Naruto. Are they works of art? Not necessarily. But they are certainly fun shows, and they are approachable enough that anyone can become a fan. Having big, diverse fanbases alone make them "good anime". It is important that fans of an anime respect other fans, opinions and views of another show. If they do not, people will start disrespecting their shows. That is how internet wars start. The anime community as a whole would be much better off if some people would swallow their pride and learn the meaning of the word "opinion".
Anime masterminds make magic behind the scenes!
The people working on an anime can make or break the entire production. Directors, producers, animation studios and voice actors are all things anime fans like to keep tabs on. Voice acting matters. No one in their right mind is going to watch a show with bad voice acting. Why do you think that some English Dubs get so much hate? The people working on a show are just as important as the characters they portray when it comes to making good anime.
Left: The actual voice actors of Pokemon characters, Ikue Ootani and Yuki Kaji, make a guest appearance in the show!
Every good anime is special in its own way!
Finally, we will consider comparing and contrasting. If someone wants to determine whether or not an anime is ‘good’ they will most likely compare it to one of their favourites. Let us use two examples, Death Note and Lucky☆Star. How can you possibly compare the two? Comparing Death Note to Lucky Star is like comparing apples to oranges. It just does not work. It would make the show or genre that you prefer look superior in every possible way. When you are judging an anime, you have to look at how it holds its own in its respective genre. Try comparing Death Note to Code Geass, or Lucky Star to Hidamari Sketch. You would get a much better perspective of the overall quality for both shows, if you looked at it like the other one did not exist. Sure there are some anime out there that are undeniably great, like Cowboy Bebop or Full Metal Alchemist, but it just is not fair to judge their quality based on others of a different type.
Anime is amazing. It enchants and excites, amazes and inspires. It is hard to classify something as good or bad because there will always be someone who believes their favourite show is the best. Be sure to keep your wits about you when critiquing anime. Although it is impossible to determine what anime is the best of the best, there are certainly ways to judge an anime’s quality fairly and productively.