Some anime series are based on a good premise, but end up squandering it. A very select few are based on an awesome premise and end up being awesome. However, within the realm of anime there are a lot of odd ducks – anime series with a premise that seems so god awful that it couldn’t possibly good, and yet, it ends up being something truly enjoyable for one reason or another. Sometimes a good script or soundtrack can carry an otherwise bland anime, but just sometimes, that writing can take something so stupid and turn it into a real diamond.
The Premise: People fight over bento lunches at the store.
Why We Like It: Ben-to has fan service and martial arts on par with Ikki Tousen and Tenjo Tenge, but it knows its place. It acknowledges that it is over-the-top and makes it clear that it is a parody of other action anime series. The best part? It can really make you laugh.
The Premise: A failed mad scientist accidentally builds a time machine in his microwave.
Why We Like It: With a premise like that, you couldn’t rightly expect a lot from Steins;Gate, but what it delivered was a highly intelligent series that deals with complex plots lines and masters entertainment’s most temperamental theme – time travel. It is hard to pull off time travel, but Steins;Gate does it.
The Premise: A mech powered by force of will gets stronger just by believing it will get stronger.
Why We Like It: With vibrant and fluid animation, a surprisingly unique story, and a whole slew of very manly catchphrases, Gurren Lagann captured the hearts of the world, keeping things interesting and fresh right to the end. Just who the hell do you think Gurren Lagann is?
My Bride is A Mermaid
The Premise: Drowning guy is saved by a mermaid that actually belongs to a Yakuza family and now must marry the guy to save his life. Her father, the yakuza boss, then becomes their teacher when they both enter high school together.
Why We Like It: Parody Rom-Com’s like My Bride Is A Mermaid is not a rare genre, but this anime sets it apart by actually being funny. It doesn’t take itself seriously and isn’t afraid to be a little out there in order to get the big laughs.
The Devil Is A Part-Timer
The Premise: The Devil gets transported to modern Tokyo where he can’t use his magic and needs to work at McDonald’s to pay rent.
Why We Like It: The Devil is like your typical anime villain from an action series mixed with your typical male lead from a slice of life series. He wants to rule the world, but also realizes that he needs to ration his money in order to eat this week. It was a new mix, but not a bad one.
The Premise: A guy can talk to bacteria.
Why We Like It: How many anime series do you know that make microbe-based jokes work? Once the cast is established, Moyashimon takes a pickaxe to an untapped comedy field.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
The Premise: Girls with powers only activated via kisses.
Why We Like It: You’d think with that premise it would be your typical pervert harem romance series, but while it has its moments, the characters in Yamada-kun actually shine in their own right.
Girls und Panzer
The Premise: Pretty girls driving tanks for sport.
Why We Like It: This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “cute girls doing cute things in a cute way” anime, not by a long shot. For one thing, the tank battles are thrilling and under the direction of a military advisor, meaning they are actually pretty accurate. Many of the battles in the show are actually based on WW2 battles. All of this surprisingly gripping action is augmented by how infectious each girl’s personality is.
Gundam Build Fighters
The Premise: A guy is great at building gundam models, but terrible is fighting them in a Beyblade/Yu-gi-Oh virtual reality arena.
Why We Like It: Of all the gundam series, this is the most unique. While some of the ideas are far-fetched bordering on ridiculous, it does manage to produce an interesting gundam series with all your favorite mechs without being as overly convoluted as gundam series can occasionally be.
The Premise: High school girls battle monsters with an ancient technology powered by pop songs.
Why We Like It: If you are into anime music, the premise alone might lure you in, but you certainly don’t except some of the eye-popping visuals and action-packed scenes. Surprisingly, the story can get pretty deep and gritty too.
The Premise: Aliens teach a guy to fish.
Why We Like It: The premise makes it seem like it is going to be either really wacky and comedic or strangely philosophical, but really it is just a nice slice of life show. The supernatural bit is tone down to the bare minimum and you get a somewhat weird show about a group of outcasts that all bond over fishing.
The Premise: Entertainment is forbidden and an idol group puts on guerilla concerts…In space!
Why We Like It: By all rights, AKB0048 set itself up to fail by expecting idols to be professional voice actors, taking on a huge cast, and wrapping itself up in a questionable story. While the plot does border on the incoherent at times, it does well by giving each of its characters their time in the sun while never forgetting the overarching plot of “entertainment is banned” in each story.
Gonna Be The Twin Tail
The Premise: A guy has an obsession with twin tails and is recruited to help save Earth with his own set of twin tails.
Why We Like It: Imagine if the power rangers where gender-bending defenders of the world, and you would essentially have this anime. It is way over the top, super perverted, but one of the funniest shows you will ever watch. It is a show made for otakus, by otakus, and all the while makes fun of otakus.
The Premise: A guy wakes up with a girl replacing his hand.
Why We Like It: You would expect this show to go right into the gutter. Yes, it has those moments, but it also manages to keep them novel and feeling fresh. Where this show really shines is in its character development. Seiji is a thug, but is forced to evolve when his punching hand is replaced with a sweet girl.
The Premise: Panties. Panties and panty-related situations.
Why We Like It: Most people dropped Punch Line after the first episode because it operated on the premise of just perverted panty situations around every corner. However, if you stick with it, it will surprise you. About half way through the series, all the weirdness and panties will be explained in the strangest yet most logical way.
Arakawa Under the Bridge
The Premise: A rich guy goes to live among homeless bridge dwellers in order to never owe anyone favors ever.
Why We Like It: The plot is insane and the characters are ridiculous on a level of BoBoBo, but Arakawa is full of charm. It teaches us that we don’t have to fit in society’s pretty little box through comedic outtakes and heart-warming scenes that all have a deeper meaning.
The Premise: Um… Philosophical ghost buster that doesn’t really do anything?
Why We Like It: No action, no tits, and sparse dialogue – what could this show have going for it? Well, the pretentious sorts will say it is all about the philosophical concepts, but mostly it is about beautiful scenery, atmosphere, and some of the most unique anime problems that ever needed solving.
Mysterious Girlfriend X
The Premise: A guy samples a weird girl’s saliva while she is sleeping then suddenly ends up going out with her.
Why We Like It: Sometimes a romance anime series will create a gimmick to set itself apart from the pack. This could have been that, but it wasn’t. Thanks to some superior writing, it became an intriguing take on first love.
The Premise: Basketball in mechs.
Why We Like It: If there is one way to make a sports anime interesting, it is to add in giant robots. However, this anime wasn’t just fun because of the mechs, it was because, like many sports anime, it thrived with wonderfully fluid animation.
The Premise: A tennis club that doesn’t really play tennis ever.
Why We Like It: If you do drugs, this might be a good anime to watch while on drugs. The creator of Ben-To and some Gurren Lagann episodes comes into Teekyuu and gives you the action and energy of a 22-minute episode crammed right into a 2-minute hole.
Did we miss any other anime series that by all rights should have been bad based on their premise, but then turned out to be pretty good? Tell us about it in the comments section below!