How Expectations Can Make or Break Anime


Expectations are dangerous. If they become too high there is a large risk of ending up disappointed with whatever you had expectations of. As a way to counter this I tend to generally have low expectations and not hype too much, which generally means there are positive surprises to be had.

Yet there will still always be cases where you simply cannot avoid setting expectations, only to later on see them be shred to pieces.

Lately there have been cases where I have ended up disappointed in certain anime titles, many whom outright fooled me with their very first episodes. Attack on Titan, which is currently airing, is one of those titles. To get straight to be point: I am not a big fan of Attack on Titan.  There are too many problems in terms of the production, such as numerous lazily made scenes to avoid actually animating the series and a glacial pacing, and the story itself that I cannot help but feel disappointed.

The largest issue with Attack on Titan is that there are glimpses of how spectacular it could have been from time to time. The first episode in particular, and the few after, is a real tease since it is so well-made. It had atmosphere, gorgeous animation and a feeling of hopelessness. As a result I had expectations. This was, after all, an anime that was hugely hyped before it had aired due to the manga’s popularity.

Then one disappointment after another appeared. Less animation, less focus on the hopelessness and overall a feeling that Attack on Titan could not recover. But when it was at its worst the second arc started and once again the series impressed me as much as the first few episodes had done. My expectations had been restored…


… Only to be crushed a few episodes later when it yet again degraded into a bit of a mess with sometimes amazing moments. My expectations were once again gone.

And this makes me wonder.

What if Attack on Titan had not started out as great as it did? Would I have enjoyed, and accepted it, more than I do in its current state? This also applies to Sword Art Online, another popular anime, which had a great starting episode which promised a lot but later failed to deliver.

The anime titles themselves had put on a façade which led to false expectations.


This became 24 minutes.

My latest offender is Kiniro Mosaic, which started as the cutest little anime I had ever seen. I smiled throughout the whole episode like I had never done before. It was just so cute! So I expected cuteness overload each week.

But, of course, this also turned out to be false expectations.

It was revealed that the whole first episode of Kiniro Mosaic was based on a single 4-koma strip from the original manga. Basically it was completely anime original. So when the series actually started adapting the manga it became worse every week due to lame character chemistry and a poor transition between each joke. It was the polar opposite of the picture the first episode had painted.

The list could go on with anime that has made me disappointed due to my high expectations. Is it possible that I would have liked them a lot more if it was not for how they pretended to be something they clearly were not?

It certainly is possible, but one will never know.

Because in the end, all we know is that expectations are dangerous.

35 thoughts on “How Expectations Can Make or Break Anime

  1. Anth says:

    I can’t quite tell if you’re targeting external expectations (hype) or internal expectations (built by how you felt in the earlier episodes compared to how you currently feel). I can understand both kinds of expectations being dangerous, though. How much weight do you give to popular opinion before checking out a title? For me, I try to completely ignore the hype and only check out titles which I feel would be up my alley (based on a log line, a screenshot, an opening, something like that).

    On a side note, in my review of Attack on Titan there is a section concerning the production and animation issues you mentioned. You might find it interesting.

  2. Manifest says:

    As fellow Anime reviewer, I know how my expectation often influenced into my assessment. Particularly, for long term manga series which adapted into short animation, say twelve episodes.
    For example, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha anime, there a lot of agony and disappointment. But, there also praise, excellence and good presentation made by the animator studio which never I expected based on manga.
    So, I usually make my final assessment after I watch the whole anime series. Rather, put my verdict based first or two episodes.

    • Marow says:

      Heard a lot of praise for Maou Yuusha before it aired, which later only turned to disappointment. The manga is much better, it seems?

      Personally I felt the presentation wasn’t that good in the anime. I often felt confused about what the characters were talking about ^^”

  3. Erif says:

    *looks at Guilty Crown*

    At least that went over well, right?


  4. Foxy Lady Ayame says:

    Dunno… :/ Can someone really have zero expectations? It must mean (s)he just tries out everything and knows nothing about the shows. I don’t feel like I have the luxury or mood to waste time on something that isn’t my kind of show or that there aren’t chances I’ll like it. Thus I go check the charts and trailers to decide. So, it’s pretty difficult for me not to have expectations :/

    As for Attack on Titans, I’m not sure why but I’m still enjoying it despite all the holes and still animation.

  5. Mouse says:

    Yep expectations set too hight at the start usually cause disappointment on the ride through… I enjoyed Sword Art Online but I knew what I was getting myself into prior to the series (Id already read the novels).
    Attack of the titan I’ve kinda given up on half way through… :S

  6. xbsaint says:

    I do think you’ve got a point about expectations, but a lot of your examples seem to say more about a lack of knowledge about HOW the anime industry works. There are all sorts of articles and podcasts on ANNCast that shed light into the process of producing anime (whether from a source manga/LN/VN or a totally original work) and basically everything you mentioned fits into trends of anime production. For example, the terrible pacing of Attack on Titan is a result of the anime trying to stay behind the manga and ensure there is more source material, while the everpresent stills are a result of cutting costs to ensure there’s enough budget and animator time to cover the 3D maneuver gear stunts. Some of the other problems, like the lack of dread in a good stretch of episodes, are a result of the source material and/or the adaptation process. That said, there’s an interview with Yamakan on ANN that explains why the first episodes of anime almost always seem to be among the best episodes, because the people working on them go all out in order to hook viewers and blow tons of budget to do it.

    • froggykun says:

      I think that, even if one understood how the anime industry works and how those things you mentioned do happen, it doesn’t stop you having expectations after seeing strong opening material. That’s more like general human nature than outright ignorance.

    • Marow says:

      Oh, but I do know how the anime industry works. Yes, not deeply, but I know the “basics” so to say.

      Still, knowing how the anime industry works doesn’t stop you from having expectations, right? The series mentioned are also extreme cases and do not follow a typical decline in quality.

  7. In a industry where things come and go all the time, under-promising and over-delivering consistently can’t seem to apply to certain niches. Though I do think there are certain anime series that do deliver in grandiose fashion when you least expect it.

    The thing is everyone’s expectations are different. For many fans of Titan that have not read the manga, they probably didn’t expect much, but felt the content being delivered was beyond their expectations.

    • Marow says:

      You’re right, it’s not really possible to apply it to anything specific. If anything, it’s much easier to believe that an action-series will under-perform than a drama doing so.

      For many fans of Titan that have not read the manga, they probably didn’t expect much, but felt the content being delivered was beyond their expectations.

      I haven’t read the manga, so definitely (for the first episodes)!

  8. froggykun says:

    Reading this post, Satoshi’s words from Hyouka come to mind:

    “Expectations are what you have when you’ve given up.”

  9. bobzilla21 says:

    It’s weird, but I tend to notice the opposite as well. The shows that I come in with low expectations and have weak starts tend to have more impact when they get good, and they’re usually the ones that end up as being my favorites (ex. HunterXHunter, Kingdom). Expectations are almost like a double-edged sword that way; high expectations can ruin a show, but low ones can actually make shows better. Of course, almost no one actually watches the latter because it only rarely works out, but at least for me, I usually try to pay attention to shows that seem bad but show potential for growth.

    I still get myself hyped for shows that start strong despite knowing they don’t usually end well though. It’s hard to avoid hype. >_<

    • Marow says:

      That’s true 🙂
      For me, we have GJ-bu as the prime example. Didn’t expect much (didn’t even plan to watch it!), ended up loving it.
      Wanted to write about that too, but I deleted those parts since it didn’t flow well ^^’

      I still get myself hyped for shows that start strong despite knowing they don’t usually end well though. It’s hard to avoid hype. >_<

      I know what you mean ;_;

  10. arekusu says:

    “There are too many problems in terms of the production, such as numerous lazily made scenes to avoid actually animating the series and a glacial pacing”

    I don’t see what’s wrong with the production and there’s not lazily made scenes, but if there is then list them so I can see what you’re pointing at. Though its true that their pacing but they might get a second season and attack on titan is a tragedy, medieval times genre. Attack on Titan is good because it’s over dramatic with every single episodes including the latest one today where the crew are trying to pursue the female titan.

    There’s a chance where it might get a second series, and the series is the most hyped anime that everyone is into. Probably the best series, well one of the best series, for 2013.

    • Marow says:

      I don’t see what’s wrong with the production

      As for the production itself, they’ve been requesting animators from early on. Some episodes have also had an extremely huge amount of animators, which isn’t normal by anime standards. For episode 17 there were 20 different animation studios working on key animations. That’s… that’s insane.

      Just go watch episode 13 if you want to see a mess. Many scenes are not even finished. This one, with the ground having purple bricks, is a prime example:
      The same episode have lots of other unfinished scenes, plus a “dust cloud” later on is literally lagging.

      As for lazy scenes…

      In most recent episodes we have yet again a huge increase of still shots or a focus on close-ups with talking faces. Or why not the power point presentation when the characters use their 3D-gear? Or copy-pasting giants:
      It’s just cheaply made. Attack on Titan is too big for Studio WIT to handle.

  11. Justin says:

    Hmm. I guess it was a good thing I quit Kiniro even despite everyone praising it’s 1st episode (was meh for me, and it’s 2nd ep killed my enthusiasm) xD

  12. Kai says:

    I also always try to go into every anime with as low as an expectations as possible, but I can’t really lower my expectations of certain shows completely either. What’s worse, I’m a marathoner that watch current airing anime a bit more later than normal, so I already had expectations on shows with a lot of hype around the forums and blogsphere. It’s hard to miss all those attention after all.

    • Marow says:

      Ouch, being a marathoner must be hard that way. Although on the other hand, perhaps marathoning allows you to accept a series’ flaws much faster than otherwise? Since when you marathon, you basically absorb the anime’s atmosphere.

  13. It’s amazing how Attack on Titan was able to drag me through 9 episodes as I hoped for it to get better. Then, I gave up and wrote a review delineating why I didn’t like it. At least, it furnished enough material for three posts.

  14. rikachu says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Ugh.

    I remember the exact moment when I realised the great show I started out watching was going to go downhill.

    It wasn’t emotional episode 1, when Eren lost his mother. Not. Equally emotional episode 2, when Armin lost his parents. Not world-building episode 3 where Eren overcame the 3-d gear nor 4 when Sasha ran down the wall to save her comrade after the collosal titan appeared.

    The moment they cut from a tense scene involving Eren and his comrades approaching Titans to Pixis playing Chess in episode 5, I thought “It’s over.”

    And when the female titan appeared in EP 17 and kicked a man and his horse like she were playing football (and pretty much saved the series from being dropped outright) I felt regret.

    Excitement, yes, but also regret. Because this series (yes, that includes the manga version this anime suppposedly adapts faithfully) could have been so great.

    I agree completely with your post. I had zero intention of watching Hataraku Maosama or Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Com and those two shows were the best of spring season 2013.

    Meanwhile AoT and Kamisama no Inai disappointed the hell outta me.

    Expectations are a bitch.

    • Marow says:

      I can’t say much else than that I agree with you. 🙂

      Kamisama no Inai disappointed the hell outta me.

      I thought the premise was interesting. Too bad the anime completely failed to deliver.

  15. rikachu says:

    P.S here’s hoping Kill la Kill, Coppellion, Pupa, Unbreakable Machine Doll, Log Horizon, Nagi no Asukara, Golden Time and all the other anime on my anticipation list for Fall Season don’t pull a Spring (AoT) or Summer (Kami no Inai) on me lol

    Seriously, though can you imagine what the series would’ve been like if most titans acted like the female type instead of being dopy-looking man babies?

    Humanity would’ve been DOOMED.

    Missed opportunity due to manga-ka trying to fit into the shounen mould (“oh hey, look, fans, Eren isn’t the only one who has devil fruit er I mean titan abilities!”)

    • Marow says:

      Golden Time, which is the only series I’ve been longing for (for years, in fact!), has already disappointed me. First when the boring visuals were revealed. And later on when an utterly dull PV was released.
      I keep telling myself that it will be fantastic, but… it’s hard not to lose all hope. Hopefully Golden Time will prove my low expectations wrong!

      Hopefully the others you mention will be good too. Otherwise we’re in for huge disappointment 😦

      Seriously, though can you imagine what the series would’ve been like if most titans acted like the female type instead of being dopy-looking man babies?

      Now now, we wouldn’t want the series to end in one episode.

  16. […] time I cannot help but to do so. It becomes especially ironic since I earlier this month wrote “How Expectations Can Make or Break Anime”, in which I point out that I normally try to have low expectations so I am not let […]

  17. […] How Expectations Can Make or Break Anime […]

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