Pharaoh’s Memories – Yu-Gi-Oh!
Photo: Studio Gallop
The penultimate arc of a long-running series should aim to be one of the most emotionally resonant segments, but the Pharaoh’s Memories arc is a disjointed mess. While it’s great to learn about the Egyptian backstory, it doesn’t make up for all the other problems that riddled the arc. The pacing is terrible, and it makes it impossible to keep track with the plot. The ultimate villain, Zorc, is more laughable than threatening, and is far less memorable than earlier villains like Pegasus. The arc also demonstrates the show’s failure to incorporate its filler arcs into the rest of the series – Yami Yugi undergoes a lot of character development during the DOMA arc that’s completely reversed here.
Yu-Gi-Oh! has been hit or miss from the start – some episodes are amazing, while others are total nonsense. It’s not surprising that the end is a disaster, but it is disappointing.
Aincrad Arc – Sword Art Online
For many people, the beginning of Sword Art Online is the best part – and compared to any scene where Asuna is in a cage with Nobuyuki Sugou, it’s pretty great. But on its own, it falls a little flat. While it’s effective at establishing the world of the MMORPG the characters are trapped in, it doesn’t do a great job of establishing an interesting protagonist.
The focus on Kirito being a beta tester takes up way too much space for a detail that doesn’t end up being terribly important later on, and it can sometimes feel like a stand-in for a personality. Also, watching him repeatedly prove how much better he is at gaming than the various female players he encounters is predictable at best, and mildly sexist at worst. Kirito will ultimately experience more character development, especially during the first arc of Sword Art Online II, but the Aincrad arc is part of why some viewers write him off as featureless.
The Female Titan Arc – Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is arguably an overrated series as a whole, but one arc stands out as being more overrated than others. The Female Titan arc, which closed out the first season, was somewhat intriguing because it introduced the idea that Titans could be intelligent. The problem was that it ended on a cliffhanger – viewers find out that Annie was the Titan, but there’s no indication whatsoever as to what her motivation was – only a series of vague flashbacks to her childhood that provided few, if any, comprehensible clues. Cliffhangers work when you have a hint or two to consider while you’re waiting for the next part, something this arc failed to provide.
Origins – Pokémon
Origins is an offshoot of the Pokémon universe that’s based on the original video games. While this is an awesome concept for fans of the games, the actual series is pretty forgettable.
It’s not that Origins is terrible, but the story it tells isn’t intrinsically better than the series proper just because the protagonist is named Red and not Ash. Muted colors don’t make the story more mature or more interesting. The Pokémon themselves lack personality, and so does Red. It’s also a little unsettling to watch Professor Oak be cavalier with his grandson’s feelings – you don’t talk about how wonderful a gravely injured child’s rival is in comparison to him while he’s laying in bed unable to get up. If viewers are supposed to respect the professor, that scene made it difficult.
The Provisional Hero License Exam Arc – My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is a well-done series of relatively even quality. It’s hard to criticize any one part of it for being poorly animated, poorly scripted, or even uninteresting. That being said, not all the arcs are equal – and one of the longer arcs is a bit overrated. This is, The Provisional Hero License Exam Arc, which takes class 1-A through a three-part test that determines whether they’ll be able to act as pro heroes.
The reason this arc doesn’t resonate quite as powerfully as some of the others is because the stakes just aren’t as high. Accomplishing a major career goal like getting a provisional hero license could be a huge deal if they hadn’t already had their lives repeatedly threatened by the League of Villains, and participated in epic battles with high emotional and physical stakes. This arc is a necessary step toward what’s coming next, and it did a good job broadening the world beyond U.A. High School, but it failed to produce enough tension – especially since those who failed can make up for it by taking extra classes and a make-up test.
The Grand Magic Games Arc – Fairy Tail
The Grand Magic Games arc in Fairy Tail is a tournament arc that features the Fairy Tail Guild’s participation in the titular games, their tangle with two other rival guilds, Sabertooth, and the Raven Tail, and the awakening of a new and dangerous power. This sounds like a pretty cool premise – the problem is that it introduces far too many characters and plot lines, and doesn’t successfully balance them. Also, like many arcs that fall flat, the pacing is poor. Conflicts that require nuance and care to resolve are glossed over, while simple battles drag on for far too long. It’s not that what happens isn’t exciting – it is – but the execution is not as good as it is in other Fairy Tail arcs.
Perfect Cell Saga – Dragon Ball Z
The Perfect Cell arc is often considered the best part of Dragon Ball Z, so much so that some people claim it should have ended there. Despite the hype, there are a lot of problems with this arc. First of all, the fight between Gohan and Perfect Cell is a lot less engaging than it could have been, mainly because Gohan’s sudden power-up feels arbitrary and out of character. Cell’s arrogant perception of his own powers is something that viewers have already seen in plenty of other villains, so his humiliating defeat isn’t exactly treading new ground. It’s not a terrible arc, but it’s definitely overhyped.
The Land Of Waves Arc – Naruto
The Land of Waves arc is often held up as one of the best arcs of the Naruto series. It has its merits – it’s the first arc where the protagonists encounter serious danger, and Zabuza and Haku’s backstory, which involves an allegedly emotionless mercenary finally realizing how much he cares about the orphan child he took in, is undeniably touching – though not nearly as touching as future arcs will prove to be.
But an arc doesn’t have to be the most emotionally wrenching one in the whole series to be good – the problem is the pacing. Naruto has never been known for its incredible pacing, but the culprit is usually filler arcs and episodes, not the arcs themselves. The Land of Waves Arc drags on seemingly endlessly before meandering to its overarching point. This makes the arc much harder to appreciate.
The Dark Tournament – Yu Yu Hakusho
The Dark Tournament is the longest arc in Yu Yu Hakusho, and it’s where the meat of the plot occurs. Because of this, it’s difficult to claim that the arc is bad – but it is overrated. First of all, while there were some standout fights – like the fight between Urameshi and Toguro – other fights were lackluster both in terms of animation and storytelling.
It also constitutes a major shift in both tone and subject for the anime. If you love tournament style fights, this likely won’t bother you, but if you started watching Yu Yu Hakusho for its premise, you might find yourself disappointed. The term “spirit detective” is no longer particularly relevant – now, it’s a battle shonen. Also, while there’s some emotional development in characters like Yusuke and Kuwabara, characters like Hiei and Kurama experience power-ups rather than character growth.
This arc can be great if it’s the kind of story you’re looking for, but not every Yu Yu Hakusho viewer entered the show hoping for a series of tournament style battles.
Dressrosa Arc – One Piece
The Dressrosa arc is often hyped up as one of the best arcs in all of One Piece, but is the hype justified? Probably not.
The first problem is that the arc introduces way too many characters, and then fails to spend enough time on any of them to make them memorable. It also fails to take advantage of its magical setting, putting all of its energy into a never-ending parade of new characters who won’t ultimately add to the overall story. The arc features a deep dive into Donquixote Doflamingo’s backstory, but in the process of revealing his backstory, the mannerisms and obsessions that made him such a striking character to start with fade into the background.