Remember your ABCs: Always. Be. Closing. Capitalism, Ho! …or else.

In business, an elevator speech is a 30-second summary of an idea. The thought is that, if you were to find yourself in an elevator with a very important person, you should be ready to persuasively pitch your idea in 30 seconds, or else the elevator will reach its destination and the very important (and busy) person will ignore your crappy idea and leave. A harsh world, yes, but there is a lot of value in the elevator speech. If you can condense your idea down to just 30 seconds (or less!), your forced to focus and simplify it, which raises the chances of it being strong enough to survive the slings and arrows of the market. Also, it may help you get funding from some fancy schmancy rich dude, which is pretty nice too.

So what does this have to do with anime? Well, anime have elevator pitches too. Or more correctly, they have premises which can be boiled down into one sentence summaries, which is practically the same thing. (Not really, but run with me here.) And, on the backs of these one-sentence pitches, some extremely profitable giants are created…regardless of how worthy the underlying story is. Need an example? Why, don’t mind if I do!

That’s right. Bring it on, haters!

To wit: Sword Art Online. It’s elevator pitch is fantastic. In fact, I would argue that it’s the #1 reason for SAO’s success. “Guy gets trapped in a fully immersive MMO where death in the game equals death in real life.” Pretty cool, though in truth it’s mostly the “fully immersive MMO” part that really draws people in. Something like 87.9% of light novel/anime fans have played MMORPGs, and probably most of us have done so quite extensively, so we can all imagine the situation SAO presents in crystal clear detail – we can picture ourselves in that story because we have (metaphorically) stood a stone’s throw away, looking out through the eyes of our WoW character’s eyes into a world not so dissimilar from Aincrad (and now Alfheim). This makes the world(s) fantastically intriguing, and sucks us into them instantly…no matter how good the story itself actually is. That’s why SAO has so many fans, despite the fact that the story behind it is mediocre. Yeah, yeah, hate on me if you like! From a storytelling perspective, it’s true – some episodes are good, but most of the plot and character development aren’t done terribly well. I just can’t heap praises on a story that stars a Gary Stu like Kirito. Deal with it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some shows that are really good despite having terrible elevator speeches. Case in point, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. No, wait, stay with me here! I’m not just trying to promote one of the shows I’m covering. Well, not only that. In my not-so-humble opinion, Sakurasou is, at this moment (Episode 03), better than the other J.C. Staff romcom airing this season, Little Busters! That’s right, I said it! (Though I realize this may not be as controversial of a statement as when I first thought it back during Episode 01). The comedy, pacing, and even the character development are all better than in Little Busters! Yet why were so fewer people planning on watching the former at season start? Well, one reason is the power of Key, and I cannot, nor do I want to, argue with that – Key stories have historically been great, and I expect Little Busters! will be no different (eventually). But the other reason is because of Sakurasou’s elevator speech, which is, I think you’ll agree, flippin’ horrible. Seemingly.

Prepare to be surprised, nyan~

“Girl who is good at art is useless at everything else, so boy takes care of her like she’s his pet.” Sounds terrible, right? Yes, it does, but when you actually dive into the story you find something different. Emotionless girls (trope!) are nothing new, but most of them have some fantastic reason for their lack of emotions, like being a clone or an android or an alien. Shiina’s case isn’t clear as of yet, but she strikes me as having some kind of development disorder (albeit a light one) – she’s unreasonably messy, has trouble conveying her emotions, doesn’t communicate well, and doesn’t understand many social conventions (like how you’re not supposed to eat food you haven’t paid for or walk around without underwear). Add that into the equation and the whole premise makes more sense. Hell, swap the genders and you’d have a girl looking after a slovenly guy, and that’s practically normal! (As sad as that is.) The premise sounds terrible, it seems to say that the characters are treating Shiina as less than human…but in actuality they’re doing nothing of the sort. Sorata just has a lot of cats (six of them), so a simple comparison was made. It’s just crappy marketing on the author’s part, nothing more.

So why do I bring this up? As a wise organization once said, “Knowing is Half the Battle” (and also “Cobra Commander is a jackass,” but that’s another subject entirely). Or perhaps better is “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we already know that, right? Besides, I’ve never had much of a problem with judging a book by its cover – it saves a lot of time, and let’s face it, it’s right more often than not.

I think I know where this is going.

Still, it’s important to remember that even if we look past the promotional art, even if we give an anime time and attention and listen to what the creators are saying to us, sometimes we’re wrong. Naturally! It’s like with a map – even a good map only gives you an idea of what a place looks like. To truly understand it, you must go there and stand amidst its mountainous crags, snowy streets, or sun-speckled beaches and experience it for yourself. The same is true of stories. We must dive in and wholeheartedly give them a chance in order to find the gems left rough and uncut by poor salesmanship.

But we’re all busy, and I know you all don’t have time to watch every anime that comes out – that’s why we do season previews, as imperfect as they are. That’s why I suggest you keep your decisions as to what to watch as “strong opinions, which are weakly held.” Once you have made a decision, you should rightfully defend it, especially when it is firmly rooted in your own personal preference, as how to spend your free time most certainly should be. Yet, if someone comes along and argues forcefully and persuasively that a story isn’t as it appears, give it a(nother) shot! It’s only by recognizing that these pitches exist – and that sometimes they’re done badly, or we take the wrong message away from them – that we know to stay on our guard, but it’s only by being willing to change our minds that we can make sure we’re wrong for only a short time, rather than forever.

Well, enough of my pseudo-philosophical nonsense. Let’s take it to the comments below! Are there any shows you have heard of and dismissed, only to go back and watch later on and realize it was amazing? Perhaps a show someone else convinced you to watch, to your great benefit? Or maybe a show that you feel people have unrightfully misjudged because it doesn’t sound nearly as good as it actually is? (cough Ben-to, Girls und Panzer, Saki, cough!) If so, share away! Also, be sure to tune in for our next mid-season podcast, where we’re planning on discussing the shows we under, over, or rightly estimated in this year’s fall season preview. Until then, continue being awesome, my friends!

But not as awesome as Bruce Campbell, ’cause that’s just not gunna happen.


  1. I actually made a deal with a friend (fellow anime fan) ages ago. He’d recommend me a series and I had to watch 10 episodes of it and I’d do the same. There was no shame if we still didn’t like it, since it was more designed to get each of us out of our comfort zones. We only did it the once and he recommended that I watch One Piece. The premise sounds wacky (Boy eats fruit that turns him into rubber and uses that power to become King of the Pirates?), but of course, its the nuances and the little details that make or break a story.

  2. I think the disconnect between premise and execution is one that’s pretty well understood by anime fans by now. Awesome premises are dime a dozen, especially in the world of animation where you can, for instance, turn a Spanish countryside into a post-post-apocalyptic village rebuilding from war (Sora no Woto) without any extra costs. Works like the Index franchise, Guilty Crown, the Shana franchise, Fractale, all introduce us to very compelling worlds ripe for a good story.

    Unfortunately, every example I listed above turned out to be mediocre-to-very-bad shows. Some are just happy to transplant the same old formulas into new settings, such as in Sora no Woto or Index, where the actual interesting parts of the premise weren’t explored at all. Others have just been messes start to finish like Guilty Crown or Fractale, where the director or writers clearly didn’t think much further than the premise. Fortunately, this season seems to show some promise with works that have good premises and execute on them properly. I’m surprised, because I had fully expected the likes of Psycho-Pass, Robotics;Notes, and K to implode very quickly, and I expected very little from From the New World but they’ve each managed to take what’s interesting about its premise and do something fun or thought-provoking with it.

    1. “…that’s pretty well understood by *many anime fans” perhaps, though that might even be an overestimation. Not to say that anime fans are worse than other fandoms – we’re about the same, give or take – just that we’re still humans, and thus stupid about 50% of the time, heh.

      Except verdant, who is a vampire robot. And Div, who is a royal android. And me, who is a perverted alien.

      …also, I liked Sora no Woto *cries*

    2. I would say the worst genre is harem when it comes to anime and let downs. Most harem anime starts out with a premise or characters that are interesting enough but then devolve into generic developments. They always seem to fail at explaining why girls all fall for a boring male lead and he can’t realize/pick one.

    3. That is the case with most original IPs. From what I’ve seen, the rules are far more restricted in the world of animation instead, I’m comparing it to the world of games as an example. A series only has 13 episodes, most of the time 3 episodes, to bring their ideas across and capture the viewership, the lack of marketing methods too (you can’t show a demo of an anime series like what games do), most of the time they rely on 30 second TV spots and that is just not enough.

      That is why I think most “original” anime reverts back to the old formula, that is what the mainstream crowd are used to seeing, they need viewership to convince sponsors and sadly it still proves to be effective. Hey, if it’s not broken don’t fix it right?

      You’re not alone brethren, I like Sora no Woto too. XD

      1. False – if it’s not broken, we should strive to improve it! …that said, this is all a function of human nature, so aside from just making sure people know what’s going on (i.e. the point of this post), not much else to be done.

  3. Garunpan is unexpectedly fun to watch. I hate to admit it but I do agree that Sakurasou is so far exceeding Little Busters!

    Concepts are one thing but execution and strong writing is what separate the good from amazing.

    I agree SAO relies on it’s concepts a bit too much to cover for it’s lack of a strong script but manages to still be entertaining otherwise.

    I’d like to say that Robotics;Notes doesn’t really have a great elevator pitch either but manages with steady pacing and characters.

    I’m looking forward to finishing all the series mentioned above even with flaws. I think only fair to reserve a strong opinion until a series is finished though for all the reasons you mentioned.

    1. PockyG, why do you need to “hate to admit” that Sakurasou is turning out to be a superior show than LB??

      I gotta agree with Stilts here again. LB seems to be in the same boat as SAO, an old source being adapted years later and is just not working. Well at least SAO had much more potentials than LB. LB doesn’t really have anything other than just irritating me with its old slapstick gags and silly puerile formats (I confess fully that it’s very clear that KEY shows doesn’t target me as a part of their audience. I hate their shows in general and hate the character designs). LB is no exception even though I really tried to like it as I patiently watched it for 3 episodes.

      Anyway, Sakurasou may be full of tropes in characters, but it is so much more; it’s turning out to be one of better shows of fall 2012 and quite entertaining.

      1. I disagree. If LB! ends up below expectations (to those who ARE in its target market, of course) then it will be an adaptation problem. SAO, on the other hand, seems like it’s getting a pretty good adaptation…the only problem being that the source material is lacking.

      2. it may be so, Stilts. It may be so.

        But I highly doubt that “LB ends up below expectations” to its target audience. If anything I see the same thing happening with what SAO is going thru -that is, its fierce fans love it no matter what and defend it like hell while others call it wasted potentials, although again I am not clear on what LB’s potentials are. Yep, I did say “an old source being adapted years later and is just not working” for both, but that’s probably just one part of the problems as it’s very likely in both cases, the source materials are flawed for anime medium and/or in general.

      3. Aye, the die-hards will love it no matter what. It’s with the not-so-die-hards, the mostly-fans, the should-have-loved-it-but-didn’t people that more objective quality judgments are made…not to mention a great deal of money, if it comes down on the good side of things. Hopefully for J.C.Staff[‘s stock price], it will.

        Or, you know, whatever. I’ve got my great romcom/drama to cover for the season, so whatevs ^^

      4. I hate to admit it because I absolutely loved Clannad, mainly After Story. I’m not a diehard Key fan or anything since I never thought Kanon was that great. In other words, my high expectations for LB makes it hard to admit it but there are problems as you’ve mentioned.

        However I don’t believe that just because a source is old makes it automatically bad. SAO may be an exception though due to the nature of the show.

        The thing is after watching Clannad, I don’t want to judge LB prematurely. LB may blow me away or completely disappoint, who knows. Sakurasou has definitely blown past LB at this point, but I’m not going to rate an entire series until it’s finished. One thing I do notice is that the direction of Sakurasou is far more polished. I could rant all day comparing the two animes but I’m tired. =_=

      5. Concerning SAO adaptation :
        From LN reader standpoint, SAO adaptation is a mixed bag. They poured a lot of money on art (although there’s a lot of still shots, at least there’s little to no derpy moments) and music, so polishing-wise, it’s great. The chronological decision in timeline adaptation resulting in (arguably) better development, but some of the “fillers” are better to be placed elsewhere or removed entirely from the story. Kirito’s personality turned into a gary-stu emo, which is a bad move in my book (but it’s a popular move!).
        About plot, most of the plot are indeed…silly and badly written, even in the LN (Love conquering all in video games!). However, the best point of SAO actually is setting building, so it’s not a big problem.

        Conclusion : Better watched with some of your brain turned off, but if you could do that it’s all great!

        Concerning LB! Adaptation :
        As a VN reader (and a fan of KEY), I must admit that LB has a big minus for an anime adaptation:

        Unless if you spoiled beforehand, you won’t notice any of the foreshadowing that concealed behind all of the childish gags and daily routines.

        Different with Kanon (You obviously smell drama from melancholic winter and amnesia), AIR (summer hallucination, magic, etc) or Clannad (DAT dramatic monologue and first meeting with Nagisa), Little Busters! didn’t have any clue of drama in the beginning of it.

        The death of Riki’s family didn’t played in dramatic tone at all, and you could quickly forget about it and it’s fine. Nobody has a background story (yet), everybody are cheerful, doing silly gags, and nothing bad is happening…

        But that’s not the actual story of Little Busters!. Even in the VN, you won’t get any clue at all until you reach any of the heroine’s route, and the real story only revealed in Refrain, the After Story counterpart of Clannad, only shorter.

        The anime tried to give original foreshadowing in narcolepsy scene at ep. 2, but I guess it still gives nothing to guess for. Talking about the anime, the script isn’t bad at all (it’s even pretty faithful), but I agree that we are used to better direction, better animation and better sound direction than what JC could present to us in LB.

        However, my point is that Little Busters! can’t be judged with 3 episodes rule. Even some of the heroine routes are mediocre to bad, but people aren’t praising Little Busters! VN for it’s cheerful first half or it’s inconsistent heroine routes…

        Conclusion : If you’re not patient enough for early LB!, drop it. If J.C (hopefully) could do a justice to the adaptation, your curiosity will peaks again someday when people talk about LB! again in some point of the story…

      6. Personally, there’s no way I’ll be dropping LB! I still think it will get up to speed eventually, and I’ll be sticking with it to find out all the way through. My only point was that it’s not as good right now.

        BTW, I know there’s a 94.723% chance you realized that, I just wanted to clarify in case anyone else misunderstood. I might be fine with baiting SAO fans, but I don’t want any hate from Little Busters! ones, lol : )

      7. Well, of course I and everyone that have read your reviews or retrospective posts have know it, Stilts 🙂

        I just saw that no one played the “Objective Defender” yet, so I tried the role.

        But the main reason is actually… The idea of putting SAO and LB in the same boat (just because they’re ‘old’ adaptation, which is also arguably incorrect since SAO starts at early 2000-ish (CMIIW) and LB released around 2007) is kinda funny for me, since I saw SAO and LB as an opposite case of adaptation problems :p

      8. SAO, eh I can accept that people said the story is lacking even if I disagree.

        That every things that is lacking with SAO is the fault of the source material and that the adaptation is perfect, …meh.

      9. Well, nobody said it’s a perfect adaptation. The most positive statements that I’ve seen is “a pretty good adaptation”. I know that there are alterations everywhere.

        But at least they poured plenty of money and not all of the alterations are definitely worse than the original material.

        …I guess now I’m pretty subjective to high budget shows since some of my favorite adaptations are budgeted poorly.

      10. I think its the way JC staff is adapting LB. It is kind of odd in that Angel Beats kind of had a VN flavor with how they arranged scenes and the storyboard despite being an original story. In contrast, I think JC Staff needs to make LB stand out far more as an anime rather than trying to copy paste the VN style (isnt suited for adaptation like this). They need a more original take on the gags so that it doesn’t interfere with the story flow and viewer immersion. I hope they start to tone down the VN elements (fight scenes, message boxes, randomness).

        I would say Little Busters as a VN is easily on par with Clannad in terms of story. Clannad is more overly dramatic which probably makes for a better anime.

      11. Haha, no, I definitely meant only “pretty good,” not perfect. That said, I haven’t read the source material, so even that is inference from me…I just know most of the things that infuriate me are pretty deep-seated problems rather than light, how-they-decided-to-convey-that things, so I assumed.

        Also, A-1 pictures has a lot of my luff for the work they’re doing with Space Bros, so maybe that’s part of the reason as well 😀

  4. This was an interesting read as I completely disagreed with both your elevator pitches of the two series. “Guy gets trapped in a fully immersive MMO where death in the game equals death in real life.” – personally I think that sounds dull and overdone, whereas “Girl who is good at art is useless at everything else, so boy takes care of her like she’s his pet.” sounds silly but vague enough it could go well. I’ve not watched either of these two, so that may actually put me in a better position to judge the two elevator pitches, i’m not sure exactly. Either way the first pitch does not sound that great, whereas the second sounds ok.


    1. To each his own. There is nothing wrong with that.

      I think one thing that is missing in Stilts’ post is that “who” the person making the sales pitch does matter. It could be the same exact pitch, but if you trust the judgement of the person delivering the pitch, you are more likely to keep an open mind. Perhaps this is because you have found the seller’s tastes to be similar to yours. Perhaps this is because you find the seller’s analysis to be more thorough. Whatever the reason, if you trust the seller to bring you a good pitch, then you are more likely to listen.

      1. Actually, that’s a really good point. I unknowingly brushed against that when I referenced how more people were planning to watch Little Busters! because it’s a Key story, but a far better example would be my other show this season, chu2koi. Would that have nearly the viewership it does if it wasn’t done by KyoAni? Not by a long shot, but people trust KyoAni, so they can pitch damn near anything and get viewers.

        Not me, though. I’m enjoying chu2koi a lot, but I am always skeptical about all of KyoAni’s work. I haven’t forgotten Endless Eight!!

    1. OnTopic: I’ve been watching anime before I learned how to write my own name. And my gut feeling has never failed to me. Well.. it kinda did with SAO.

      Months before the anime announcement, my younger brother told me that there was a very popular LN that’s been getting big in Japan. I read about it and saw how it won several awards. Then came it’s trailer and I imagined that SAO was about an “Accidental Leader” protagonist that had to keep his shit together for his friends’ sake. This is a common trope in all survival stories (HSOTD, Eden no Ori manga, Battle Royale manga, LOST, whatever). I was proved wrong thanks to how EP2 ended.

      SAO is not a bad anime, and the writing gets better as we go on. But it pretends too much to be something it is not: a survival anime.

      This is why Accel World is the better show. The “elevator speech” matches what you get.

  5. I ignored Last Exile and RahXephon for awhile because I had seen a random episode and had find them boring. But then I tried them again from the beginning and really like them.

    I was about to ignore Jormungand (noses and white hair in african people) and Shin Sekai Yori (really big kiddie-eyes) because of the visual style choices but I’m glad I didn’t because I’m liking them both a lot.

    I totally ignored SAO because I though it was a clone of .hack.

    I ignored mecha animes because I didn’t like mechs but I really like some mech animes like NGE and RahXephon. Same with school-life, and then I liked Ano Natsu de Matteru.

    So eventually I became aware that labels, visual styles, summaries and first impressions can be misleading

    1. On the visual style thing, I nearly ignored Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann because of its art style. The fact that that’s a true statement almost makes me vomit in self-disgust! Fortunately, that’s one mistake that another blogger saved me from making…though with that one I didn’t even know enough about it to know what its pitch was. Head totally up my ass, lemme tell ya, lol!

  6. The biggest example for me was when my friend told me to watch FMA: Brotherhood. She and I were both huge fans of the show but she had also read the manga. So when Brotherhood came out, she was in heaven and told me it was so much better than the original anime. So I started giving it a shot and I actually got through the first 10 episodes before school work got in the way. I ended up forgetting about it for a whole year until Summer came around and she scolded me for not having seen it yet. Then I finally sat down and watched all 64 episodes in a matter of days and felt like a HUGE idiot for not watching it sooner. I now own all the DVDs lol.

    I’m also currently watching Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and I couldn’t agree more about how underrated that show is! I was on the fence about even watching it at all so I’m really glad I decided to in the end. I think another show that was initially underrated was Chihayafuru. It’s elevator speech did not do it justice because that show came out with some of my favorite characters that year. I’m really looking forward to the second season! So, in the end, I’m always happier when I give a show with a bad elevator speech a chance. Because even though some of them do end up being mediocre, some of them truly surprise you. And that’s completely worth it to me ^^

  7. Elevator speeches huh? It’s a well known fact that the attention span of the average American stands at something like 8 seconds (as of 2012). So chances are that if a show (or product) doesn’t have you sold within that brief time-window, it probably never will. And that, incidentally, is a large part of what marketing consultants get paid the big bucks for- to capture people’s attention in the shortest amount of time possible. Marketing matters- if you can’t get your product to stand out (among
    the legions of other similar products on the market) and capture the attention of consumers, then you’re dead in the water, regardless of the actual quality of your product. (Regarding great products that didn’t sell well due to poor marketing, games like Mark of the Ninja and the first Valkyria Chronicles come to mind.)

    The consumer can hardly be blamed for manicly sifting through the innumerable amount of information that he/she is constantly bombarded with each day. Nonetheless there is undeniable benefit in affording time for the luxury of closer scrutiny to certain products, lest we (unintentionally) pass over diamonds in the rough.

    1. So true, so true. That’s why it’s important to realize the game that’s being played around us (or by us, if you have a job like mine) – for most things it is not only completely understandable but undeniably right to judge them quickly and discard them if they are found lacking. Yet, for something that we’re all passionate about – like anime, in our cases – it’s worth giving things a deeper look. That way you don’t end up missing the good stuff, and instead end up like Kira526 up there, grateful for always giving things a shot.

      1. @Stilts

        (or by us, if you have a job like mine)…

        Lol, so you’re in the marketing business? Somehow the first image that popped into my head after reading this was of you trying to sell me some Guilty Crown Blu-rays- or was it Sword Art Online?- and your cheerful charisma winning me over…*shudder*…(jk) XP

      2. I’m a marketer, not a salesman (well, not a salesman anymore). That means I do sales writ large, I spin stories and wrap them around a product until you can hardly penetrate my artful bullshit to deign the truth of what is beneath. Also, sometimes I give powerpoint presentations or yell at people, but those are just perks. It’s a fun time! :3

  8. To be completely honest, I’ve decided to more or less skip season previews. I check what people are talking about once it’s started.

    It’s impossible to guess which anime will be good and which one will be awful. It’s about how they deliver, and not what they deliver. Awful descriptions can be written about good shows, and vice versa.

    1. True. Of course, since I help write the season preview, I certainly read it, but I’ve recently taken on the habit of just watching damn near everything. My free time, where hath thou gone! T__T

  9. Yet, if someone comes along and argues forcefully and persuasively that a story isn’t as it appears, give it a(nother) shot! It’s only by recognizing that these pitches exist – and that sometimes they’re done badly, or we take the wrong message away from them – that we know to stay on our guard, but it’s only by being willing to change our minds that we can make sure we’re wrong for only a short time, rather than forever.

    Indeed. Looking at the comments here and elsewhere (r/anime, animesuki, other blogs), I see a lot of viewers who are critical of a story’s aspects that I find barely notable while watching (“nothing happens at all”, overhyped, fan service, moe, tropes, carbon copy, too much humor, xyz is ridiculous, dropped because of MC, source material was different) or in some cases are even incorrect.

  10. Bam bam bam! Stilts wrote that SAO’s story is is “mediocre”! Gasp!! gasp!! SAO fan boys are outraged!!! How dare, you Stilts~~!! …unfortunately there was no neg button to push for Stilts’ post……

    ha ha ha I kid, I kid, SAO fans. 🙂

    You all know how much that show let me down (or one might say how much I hate that show), so no need to egg on that any longer. I said my piece and I moved on~~!
    It’s unfortunate that such fantastic premise turned out to be such dreadful dud, but hey, that’s a life! Not every thing turn out to be a golden egg. I don’t deny that it still seems to satisfy a portion of demography as evident on fierce neg squats operating round the clock on SAO posts, but it’s a pity that it will never be a classic when it could’ve easily been.

      1. Fortunately, I can use my minus, “Fail Writer”, to overwrite reality with one of my own design! Unfortunately, my realities are invariably wracked with errors and inconsistencies, causing unending pain to all those effected, especially myself.

        Basically, think of Neshinbara’s magic, but with more gramaticle erors. Orz

    1. Ahaha, actually I do! He’s one of my favorite marketers. Funny thing is though, I started writing this post last Friday, and got the idea for it something like a week ago today. Great minds think alike, perhaps? I can hope!

  11. It’s funny maps are mention, because I would compare the Apple iOS6 Maps to the train wreck that is Guilty Crown.

    Bad memories aside, Steins;Gate is a shining example. I didn’t really pay much attention to previews back before it aired, so it went totally under my radar until Enzo posted the famous “sonuvabitch” clip of Okabe. That got me curious enough to marathon ~17 eps, and I ended up loving it.

    IMO, Shirokuma Cafe is very underrated. Despite its premise and looks, there’s a lot more to it than a couple of animals in a cafe.

  12. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo.

    “Girl who is good at art is useless at everything else, so boy takes care of her like she’s his pet.”

    While I’m sure the Kanji provides a literal translation, I wonder if the simile was lost in its English version?
    In other words, if you said that phrase to someone culturally closer to the author, would they take an entirely
    different meaning from it? Taking care of a pet is portrayed mostly as a thankless chore in some places.
    The word “pet”, when applied to people, has a negative air about it, too. We may kid, but I’m uncomfortable
    referring to or being referred as a pet by an SO (Hi, Master, however, is okay :))

    A good story identifies with its audience by touching/tickling a core belief. They may not be even to articulate
    their belief, but they feel the story’s influence/affect on them. To make his ultimate point, did the author choose
    this title purposely for its double meaning? Dunno, but here’s a theory.

    Back to the pet metaphor, if you replace “takes care of” with cherishes, you can see how it (should) suddenly
    takes on an almost completely different meaning. IMHO, maybe the author was using the ecchi aspect to hook
    his audience, but really deliver something much more substantial. I guess only sales will tell how successful
    this strategy will work.

    But I’m very happy I began watching it.

    I guess, even in non-Anime, titles don’t really mean much to me. Or even the elevator summary. For me, the X
    episode rule seems to pan out the best. Sometimes I’ll get into a series, see it pique early, and watch the
    accrued casualty count just to see how badly it went (morbid curiosity).

    To borrow a Forrest Gump quote –

    Life Anime is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.”

    1. Actually, that thought was occurred to me before, that some of the hesitance about Sakurasou comes down to a cultural thing. The thought of calling someone a “pet,” from my American PoV, is repugnant at worst and creepy at still worst, but what about in Japan? It’s easier to see those cultural translation problems with shows like Saki or Chihayafuru, where there’s something (in those cases, games) that the largely Western audience of this blog just doesn’t understand. With something as subtle as how a certain title is interpreted, it’s harder, and I’ve no idea what the answer is.

      Food for thought, I suppose.

  13. Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds. “Card games on motorcycles.”

    The first two arcs are actually pretty darn good…although IMO the third arc faceplants completely and the fourth is basically just trying to end the thing already. Character development over the first two arcs is consistent and all the important characters get a solid amount of depth. Even the 4Kids dub was tolerable for once.

    Witchblade (the Anime, not the comic). “Chick with tits gets superweapon and chops up bad guys.”

    Turns out the entire story is based around the concept of family, with a surprisingly memorable ending.

  14. Elevator speeches? Take a look at the opening scene (the “pitch” scene) in Robert Altman’s The Player, in which Hollywood hopefuls trot out elevator speeches for proposed movie projects to bored studio executives. (The whole thing is on YouTube.) I suspect pitching an anime project is pretty similar these days.

  15. No mention of AKB0048 guys? Guerilla Idols….. IN SPACE people. Seriously the premise is so dumb I still don’t know how it made it past the pitch. And yet it ended up being one of recent favorites.

    As someone mentioned above its all about execution, shows like Ben-Tou, AKB0048 and in this season Girls Und Panzer play its premise very straight and very honest. Suddenly the audience can suspend their disbelief and get lost in its own absurdity. It ends up being enjoyable because of that.

    This is the major failing of SAO. First episode sets a serious tone, establishing that people are trapped in a literal game of life and death. You even see players panic and cry in terror. For a few episodes it was looking great (The Sachi story is still a high point for me). And then we get…light hearted, non serious, slice-of-life? Oh, and Kirito is the best player….because. Then he gets the couple with the best and most popular female player…because. Then their love is so awesome that it attracts Yui as their daughter…..for some reason. Then this couple somehow breaks all established logic on their world to beat the Big Bad…. because true love? At this point I wondered if SAO wanted for me to take it seriously anymore. The serious tone that was established just disappeared and I don’t know what SAO is trying to be anymore.

      1. Did those girlfriends meand it teasingly for some kinky stuff or as a joke? ^^

        But your posts on dxd did make me watch that one out of curiousity, which turned out to be a more fun watch than i expected at first thought of that one.

  16. I have always been a fan of anime but only in the past 5 years have I really started to follow anime. I remember when I would always go to anime-planet to find some shows to watch and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would always show up for slice of life shows and I never gave it a look. I eventually watched it when I couldnt find anything else and even though endless 8 would turn out the way it did I still dont regret watching it cuz I might not of ended up seeing The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

  17. The one that turned me off at first was Clannad. I have heard how great it was but never wanted to give it a try due to the weird character designs (how big can your eyes get?) And Clannad’s premise was as ordinary as anything you can get from Shoujo manga. But then I saw the screen caps for Clannad After Story episode 18. I am a sucker for anything that has to do with family so I decided to give it a try and started from the very first episode. Man, I have never cried so hard for an anime.

    1. Kanon was like that for me. I still don’t know why I picked it up exactly, I didn’t watch that much anime back then and I didn’t even know what “moe” was yet, but I’m glad I did. Actually, that’s a bad example because I didn’t even know enough about it to know what it’s pitch was…but screw it, it was good! Clannad too. Ushio~!!

  18. I think the popularity of SAO is due to a lot more than the premise. I think the premise is good for drawing people in the first episode. People keep watching if you can keep that premise entertaining.

    I would say the main appeal of SAO is the idea of connections with others in the virtual world (Especially Asuna). The second important aspect is being the best/strongest. Online games are highly competitive and the growth of PvP and e-sports attests to this. I guess its mainly this e-relationship/Strongest appeal to fans (something similar to fanservice) that is the serie’s main strengths which help to overcome its shortcomings in terms of story.

    The story kinda sucks after SAO until alicization. It might be worth comparing to Accel World (same ideas/author) to what works.

  19. The first banner of this post is from a game called Recettear – its a game about capitalism. And like Stilts’ post said, it had a really really bad elevator pitch but damn was the game challenging and fun. Was on steam’s summer sale (really cheap) awhile back so if anybody wants to check it out.

    PS: If everyone already knows this, I’ll show myself out.

    1. Actually, that was worth noting, though I disagree that its elevator pitch was bad. To me, the premise behind Recettear was really interesting – I liked the idea of taking part in the typical fantasy story not as the typical adventurer, but from an item shop owner’s eyes. That just goes to show you that an elevator pitch that falls flat for some people will work gloriously well for others.

      Capitalism, Ho!

  20. Kirito and Haruyuki is the worst Gary Stu ever. Kamijou Touma already become Gary Stu at the Russian arc while Accelerator become the real main character. Sakai Yuji is already one when he become God of something. Notice how easy light novel character go into Gary Stu position?

    This is because after a while the author will project himself to the main character and the main char will become horribly unbalanced. Luckily, we got type-moon to fix this…….oh shit, Tohno Shiki and Sojuurou is really close to Gary Stu as well.

  21. This one ought to hit close to home for you, Stilts. I was pretty much positive I’d be avoiding watching Horizon after reading the little blurbs about it for the upcoming anime last fall.

    My friend watched episode 1 and told me he thought it seemed interesting, so I reluctantly checked it out… and now it’s one of my favorite series. Period.

    Honestly though given the series complexity, a decent elevator pitch for it is nigh impossible. You need a hefty informational pamphlet like that 2 part post of yours instead (which I loved by the way).

    And I agree with you 100% about SAO. The premise grabbed me and the first episode was excellent, but the spotty pacing, character development, and overall storytelling have really let me down. I still like it, but I thought I’d be crazy for it based on the summaries I read prior to its airing.

    1. \o/ Yay! I am Stilts, and I approve of this message. 😀

      In all seriousness, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is actually one that counts for me as well. The elevator pitch I took from it was not very appealing – the world got all fzcked up, humans crashed back down from the “heavens”, now they’re trying to recreate history exactly to avoid(?) the same mistakes, also holy shit what’s with those girls with huge hair and breasts?? – but once I got into it (thank you, Kurogane!), I…well, I think you all know how that turned out ; )

  22. As a SAO LN fan I do agree with you on the story setting part aside from Virtual Reality MMORPG it really is not that very interesting. At first I didn’t care about SAO at all when I found the manga scan on manga sites.
    until I found the LN and read it deeper into the Light novel story and realized that its strong point is not the story itself but the interaction between character , inner character thought (which most of them didn’t include in the anime) and MMORPG feeling background.

    PS. I don’t think Kirito is totally Gary Stu. He is just a Top-Hardcore Game Online Addicted player we would often found in the Game Online nowadays who devoted all of their time into the Game and make us wonder how can they leveling so fast.

    1. THAT’S what makes him an escapist fantasy Gary Stu. He’s obviously created to appeal to those gamer addicts who have no life apart from gaming by telling them “Don’t worry – just look at Kirito! He’s a loser gaming addict who totally turns into a hero when he’s tossed into a virtual reality death-game. YOU can become just like him and get a totally hot wife and all the guys in your class will you jealous of you. Tah-dah.”

    2. Actually Gary Stu/Mary Sue isn’t the actual problem for (Anime) Kirito. Gary Stu/Mary Sue itself isn’t always bad (For example, Athena from ARIA is one of the most perfect Mary Sue that I ever saw, but she became a very good character due to good placement and execution).

      Now, return to Kirito (anime). His actual problem is that almost nothing are presented to support his motive, superiority and luck, logic-wise. He can swing from happy go lucky to emo for no reason, from awkward boy to flirt master for no reason, girls (in a world where girls are very rare) come closer to him for no reason, doing something grand for no reason, etc. Of course there are some exceptions and he also has his share of genuinely cool scenes, but still I feel that the author trying to hard to create a “perfect persona” (or maybe writer’s ideal persona)…for no reason. That’s why people call him Gary Stu.

      But of course Kirito would be seen as a much better character for “his target audience” and people who don’t nitpick much when watching anime.

    1. Agreed. Combining machines and girls in a positive manner is hard to mess up you’d think. Fortunately the show hasn’t diappointed me. I just hope they don’t slack off now that the three episodes are done.

    2. “Cute Girls do Cute Things, in tanks!” That’s Girls und Panzer.

      It is a major pleasant surprise; I was expecting something more like Upotte, with lots of exposition about various weapons. The actual show is turning out to be far better than I had any right to expect.

  23. This relates to the summery we were given for Chunnibyou hasn’t matched the show yet. Poor translation perhaps? The summery implies that Yuuta and Rikka are dating or will be early on in the show. This doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in the next few upcoming episodes unless something spectacular happens.

  24. It’s kinda difficult to deal with comedies, since their premise is so simple most of the time. Take Seitokai no Ichizon, for example. I wasn’t that impressed by “Yet another harem show with references, except this one takes place in the student council room” when it was airing, but after a couple of recommendations, I gave it a try and didn’t regret a single minute of it. Key-kun is an amazing protagonist, every heroine is likable, and the overall tone of the comedy was right up my alley.

    On the other hand, BakaTest had a much nicer premise (“Your quality of life depends on the tests you take and the battles you fight with your chibi avatars!”), but its humor just didn’t click with me. I felt like each character only had a single joke to tell, and of course, it had to be told in every damn episode.

    And that’s the problem: you can’t know whether some comedy’s sense of humor matches yours until you watch it, and if it doesn’t, why bother?

    1. Agreed on , disagreed on Baka to Test. Well, I agree that Baka to Test’s premise was better, but not that it wasn’t funny…I thought it was great! First Silver Link show that made me take the time to stop and look up who Silver Link was, lol.

      That said, your point was that you can’t really know with a comedy until you give it a shot, and to that, you’re completely right. With other things the execution is a large portion of the story’s success, while for a comedy, it’s pretty much 100%.

  25. It’s alright, you can shit on SAO as much as you want, the thing had 16 episodes to prove itself and by now it’s more than obvious how mediocre it is. On the other hand your dear Pet Show is only 3 episodes in (I can enjoy it so far, even if the lastest episode got my eyes rolling), with JC staff serving as its crew and Okada at the helm so, words of caution.

  26. Ohh I missed the old (not that old BTW..) days when FMP and Seto no Hanayome brought us pitch perfect <– in ideas and in execution.

    Many anime released recently force me I to ignore the pitch (or whichever they're called) and relies more on "suspension of disbelief" factor. Anime , any anime, need to be great on something, strong presentation of ideas, visual or any value at all (moe? ecchi?) to keep us clinging to it.

    And by nature in the end, everybody has their own preferences and ego. Heck I still haven't been able to finish some big names anime like Lain, FMA, Eureka 7 or even Madoka, to name a few.

    these days I only enjoy 2-3 anime per season, dropping many after 3 or 4 episodes. After that if an anime stands the test of time and survive in review or blogs, perhaps I'll revisit them again later and sometime found some real gems. I don't hate myself not realizing an anime true potential when they're still being aired, and watching a title back to back after they're finish are rather enjoyable for me recently.. *cough*steins;gate. 😉

    This season, betting on some old favorite premises, I'm rooting for Kami-sama & Garupan, and some that seem bipolar of their pitches and 1st ep impressions; Sakurasou & Tonari. However after the second episode, Tonari starts to grabs me and Sakurasou might just have to wait, giving way for the one that slowly showing bang it's pitches: Robotic;Notes!

  27. I’m beginning to get the impression that I missed out on something good when I decided to skip Accel World. The character art repelled me, mainly of the fatso protagonist, and the concept seemed trite, pretty much wish fulfilment for ugly kids.

    But things I’ve read suggest there’s a lot more to it than that.

    A show I love, that I’ve had a lot of trouble convincing people to try, is Divergence Eve (plus Misaki Chronicles). It’s something of the same problem: people look at the character designs (specifically the titanic boobs on all the women) and decide that the show must be crap. In fact, despite all the fan service (and it has a substantial amount, including preposterous amounts of gainaxing) the underlying story being told is excellent. It’s techno-horror. But few people give it the chance to prove itself.

  28. a little off topic but I never got the big deal about mary sue or gary stu. Many of us in real life do things that would be considered “mary sue or gary stu-ish” like being talented in multple areas, being liked by friends,and being admired. yet no body screams OMG MARY SUE!!!!. my question is this: If many of us in real life can be these thing, why can’t fictional characters?

  29. It is problematic, I think, to distill an anime into something nebulous called the “premise”. Premise ties itself too much to plot, which in turns ties it to “stuff that happens”. There is so much more to a good story–and indeed, a good anime–than stuff that happens.

    As far as elevator speeches go, you are trying to sell your product/idea/whatever. You can’t do this simply by stating what your product is, or even what it does. You have to state why the other party would want to buy it, which is not the same thing. For anime, having an interesting “premise” helps, but there is so much more than just that. Your action scenes may be prettier, or your jokes may be funnier, whatever. There are plot heavy animes, sure, and they can sell themselves on that. But sometimes even that can’t work. Take mysteries for example; you can’t sell the plot twist; that’d defy the point. Rather, you have to create atmosphere, introduce suspicious characters, bait some hooks.

    Let’s take Sora no Woto which is mentioned above, mainly because I think it is a good example (and I liked Sora no Woto). Spoiler warnings in advance.

    I can, for example, tell someone who hasn’t watched Sora no Woto before that it is a post-apocalypse story where the survivors are beset by war even as the world is slowly dying. This is true. However, it is also a deception because that’s not really what the anime is about. Instead, I should have talked about the things that Sora no Woto really say (like fundamental humanity, dying gracefully, yada yada). The anime sold itself as a slice-of-life with elements of mystery as they slowly revealed the death of the old world. It was very patient with the “stuff that happens” because, frankly, that wasn’t the main point.

  30. Stilts, you’re judging SAO just based on the anime right? You’ve never read the LN?

    Idk, I still feel like the LN was able to touch base with so much more development and as much world building as you guys wanted and hoped for in the adaptation. It seems like what everyone just hates is the Gary Stu-esque of Kirito and the disappointing adaptation that created so many misconceptions about the characters and side stories.

  31. I’m going to possibly upset some people when I say that for me, this was Madoka.

    When I first saw the show, all I could tell was that it’s a magical girl show with relatively deformed art style. Not really attractive; magical girl shows being what they are, I was entirely uninterested. What you don’t get from the elevator pitch to the show (or at least, what I didn’t) was that it is almost anti-genre as the show violently tears down everything about it.


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