Really That Bad?: Isuca


You voted. We watched. This is the fifth installment of a series of conversations between Watson and myself about anime shows that have been deemed worthy contenders for the title of Worst Anime of All Time.

As with Mirage of Blaze, Hand Shakers, Vampire Holmes, and Diabolik Lovers, we’re not aiming just to poke fun at widely unpopular anime for our own amusement (though we certainly hope these articles are fun to read), but rather to have a frank discussion about what exactly makes these shows so bad in the first place. We’re also genuinely curious to find out whether or not these anime are indeed as bad as their reputations suggest.

So sit back, enjoy, and do let us know your own opinions in the comments.

Artemis: Well, here we are again with our first Really That Bad? title of the new year. Why don’t you start us off, Watson?

Watson: Well… it wasn’t terrible.

Artemis: That’s your summary of the show?

Watson: Kind of, yeah. I have to say I was expecting something way worse. The last few shows have been… well, pretty dire. But Isuca actually had some redeeming features that I think are worth discussing.

Artemis: I don’t know if I’d say ‘redeeming features’ per se, but I agree that in some respects at least, Isuca wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been anticipating.

Watson: That counts as a compliment around here, so let’s roll with it!

And it started off so well, too…

Artemis: So what tops your list for notable positive (or just not-terrible) qualities?

Watson: Way I saw it, there were three main things that stood out. First, the show wasn’t BORING – things happened, there was drama and conflict, and people took action to resolve them. That’s actually a pleasing novelty.

Artemis: Certainly a step above, say, Diabolik Lovers, which really suffered from a lack of agency. Or Vampire Holmes, which suffered from a lack of… well, everything.

Watson: Setting the bar pretty low, I know.

Artemis: Although that also means that Vampire Holmes thankfully didn’t suffer from excessive fanservice either. But we can come back to that – please, continue.

I think they’ll recognize you for other reasons too.

Watson: Second thing I liked was that there were distinct characters, and at least some of them developed. The main characters all had reasons for why they acted the way they did, and those reasons seemed to respond to events around them. Some of the others were a bit of a blank slate, or one dimensional, but it wasn’t a complete wasteland in terms of characterisation.

Artemis: Fair enough. I’d argue that a lot of said character traits and development were surface-level at best, but I agree that there was at least some characterisation going on which, thanks to the kinds of titles we’re watching, I no longer take for granted.

Watson: Indeed. And thirdly, there was intra-character conflict, which was believable (relatively speaking, anyway) in terms of their situation and motivations. Do you know how long it’s been since we watched a show that had that?

Artemis:

Watson: Neither do I, but it feels like a real long time! I also remember liking the way one of the characters responded when asked why they didn’t have a job: “I can’t fight the waves of recession.” Lol.

The extra bodysoap was a nice touch too.

Artemis: I’ll admit there were one or two moments of humour I found genuinely funny here, which again, when you think about what we’ve been watching lately is a pretty major achievement.

Watson: Yeah. I guess a kind of Stockholm Syndrome is setting in at about this point in our journey.

Artemis: Although I will also point out that most of the ‘humour’ in this case was of the “characters constantly faceplant into boobs, women get stripped of their clothing and dignity in increments” variety. To be clear, I don’t find these kinds of situations unfunny because I too am a woman and it therefore offends me personally. I find it unfunny because at its core, it’s really just not funny.

Watson: Really? I didn’t think those moments (and there were MANY) were intended as humour. I thought they were mindless titillation.

Artemis: That too, but after so many years of certain character stereotypes and sexual slapstick comedy sinking in within the medium, I think a certain audience has been well-trained by this point to laugh at it.

You ain’t seen NOTHING yet, cat-girl…

Watson: Either way, it certainly wasn’t subtle. Clothing rips, random partial nudity, accidental groping and the like happened a LOT, and for reasons which were only tangentially related to the action in each episode. It was as if the creators could only bring themselves to produce the flimsiest of excuses for the male character to end up with someone sitting on his face. Again.

Artemis: Absolutely, but it got worse. There were also the moments where shit got rapey. Because while our resident high school demon slayer, cat girl, and shrine maiden all quite blatantly threw themselves at our main guy (even when pretending otherwise), there were definitely some rather less benign instances of fanservice. You know the drill – some near tentacle-rape (because demons), people being forced to make out (because demons), some girls get bitten by rats and end up rolling around in their underwear (because demons)…

This isn’t even close to how bad the scene got. And this was one of the milder ones.

Watson: I’m not sure I do know the drill, actually. Perhaps I haven’t watched enough dodgy anime to become familiar with it.

Artemis: Lucky you. Sometimes I genuinely wonder whether the staff on any given generic ‘sexy’ anime title really do just sit around a table in some conference room, give each other five minutes to scrawl some keywords on bits of paper, and then throw them into a hat to take turns on pulling out the characters/plot points. “And the characters for this show will be… a high school student! With confidence issues about… her bust size! Her sidekick will be… a cat demon! With her main physical feature… hilariously enormous breasts!

Watson: Yes, even I can see that these sorts of things are getting tiresomely clichéd. It’s a pity, because if you ignored one or two of the most egregiously formulaic and just plain dumb elements, the show probably wouldn’t have struck me as being one of the worst out there to begin with.

Artemis: Sure, but it’s hard to ignore something when it’s literally being shoved in your face every other minute.

Watson: I will grant you that. But then again, we certainly have seen worse, so for the purposes of this series of articles, does Isuca qualify as still being one of the worst examples of anime out there? I’d argue not.

Excellent question! Are these tree-root-demon-things or mobile turds?

Artemis: I will say that Isuca did strike me as being fairly average. Average bad, that is, but still average. And you’re right, we have seen worse, in terms of sexuality and consent/agency (Hand Shakers, Diabolik Lovers), story (Vampire Holmes), and pacing (Mirage of Blaze). Of course, none of this by any means makes Isuca actually good, but it also makes it not The Worst, which is about as charitable as I feel like being towards it.

Watson: All in all, pretty forgettable, then. Which maybe doesn’t sound like a compliment, but almost could be in that it’s not been forever burned into my memory. Even the technical aspects like music and animation were just… there. The trend towards the “monster of the week” format is also probably responsible for at least some of Isuca’s general forgettableness, complete with the characters constantly yelling the names of their various special attack methods. Why is that, by the way?

Artemis: It’s something of a long-standing tradition among certain shows, especially those with an action bent and aimed at young teens. In fact, it’s probably what some people remember most about a few older titles like Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z. I’ve never actually researched that particular topic, but I imagine it makes the action seem cooler to some viewers. It also (I assume) serves to create handy catch-phrases. If something is easily repeatable, something is easily shared.

Watson: Hmm, makes sense. Thanks for explaining that, I’ve always wondered about it. Anyway, let’s wrap things up.

Another excellent question, but one that is sadly lacking an excellent (or even acceptable) answer.

Artemis: Were we giving scores out of 5?

Watson: I think we started by rating out of 10, but including the top half of that range may have been just a tad over-optimistic.

Artemis: In that case, I’d give it a 3.

Watson: Yeah, I’d go with that. It’s the same as I gave Mirage of Blaze, and while this show wasn’t remotely as boring for me, it has pretty big problems elsewhere.

None that can’t be solved by a beach episode, though!

Artemis: I believe I gave Mirage of Blaze a 3 as well, while every other title we’ve covered so far for this article series has received lower.

Watson: There you have it, folks. We don’t recommend anyone watch Isuca, but if you do we can at least say that it (probably) won’t scar you for life. You’re welcome.

Question of the post: To any readers who’ve also seen Isuca, what did you make of it? Does it deserve the title of Worst Anime, and why/why not?

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15 thoughts on “Really That Bad?: Isuca

  1. I think I lasted 3 episodes before dropping this.

    Bad enough it had an everyMAN protagonist dropped in out of his depth, only to be pivotal in fighting evil, sidelining the hyper-competant female(I hate this trope and Bleach is about the only anime that has done it well), but when it became a harem as well, that’s when I cried “Enough!”

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  2. I remember watching this all the way through. I remember mildly enjoying it, but the fanservice was really, really bad – both frequent and undermining the dignigity of otherwise decent (for that genre) characters. For that reason, I’d say its rapiness is actually much, much worse than Diabolical Lovers, which I read as a fairly consistent masochist fantasy – that is, the rapiness didn’t distract from anything.

    One thing Isuca was not was memorable. I looked at the pictures and didn’t even recognise the characters (I only vaguely remember the catgirl and shrine maiden being there). For this reason, I can’t tell you what I enjoyed about it, and I’m certainly going to revisit this show to find out.

    I’ll still be going with Vampire Holmes for worst, this far. (Haven’t seen either Mirage of Blaze or Handshakers.)

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    • I admit I only made it 6 episodes in before giving it up as a bad job. I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed it even mildly, but that’s an interesting point about the rapiness in comparison to Diabolik Lovers. The latter is technically much worse, but it also clearly had no interest in being anything other than what it was, whereas you could argue that Isuca actually had something to live up to.

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      • I just realised I wrote “and I’m certainly going to revist”, forgetting the rather crucial “not”. That’s… embarrassing. I forgot nearly the entire show. I remember cringing a lot, but I couldn’t give you any details. The demon tree scene pictured above? No memory whatsoever. I do remember the general… mood. I have a pretty good auto-filter, automatically ignoring a lot, but Isuca went past that a lot. I really have no interest in ever going back. I did mildly enjoy the show, but I cringed a lot, too. Worth it on balance? I don’t know; I can’t remember. Certainly not worth a re-watch, though.

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  3. My observations of fanservice in the animanga business is that it’s indicative of:
    1) A strategy to appeal to readers of a certain gender group by putting in sexy content that compels them to keep following the series. Risk of being lazily executed for cheap titillation.

    2) The author indulging in their sexual kinks via their art. (Some author’s notes I’ve read have been quite…candid about how their title gives them the chance to bring their fanservice fantasies to life.) Risk of making readers question the author’s deviancy ( lazy execution may still apply).

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  4. Pingback: Anime Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week: March 2, 2018 | Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

  5. My dear Artemis, lacking the arcane knowledge necessary to enable me to directly message you, I shall leave this here:

    I have recently completed a sort of anime / mash-up / faux movie trailer / homage / *thing* that is now on YouTube. (Languishing, probably, feeling unloved.) Since you and Dr Watson are dedicated followers of all things anime (good *and* bad), you might be curious enough to give it 1.15 minutes of your time, a laugh if you can possibly afford it, and an up-or-down vote of your choice.

    It is in the form of a movie trailer riffing off the original (Western) one; “Millennium Actress” cross-pollinated with “Azumanga Daioh” – purely for artistic reasons you must understand, not for laughs. [Link below.]

    Any compliments appreciated, and any kind of public boosting via you immensely popular blog appreciated too, if you deem it so worthy.
    Kudasai.

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