Over the course of the past 3 months or so, I created and ran a giant anime tournament. It was called The Must Watch Anime Tournament! A fairly straightforward title, that has created quite a stir in my own anime community. It even sparked a fellow user to make their own bracket in similar fashion, but with manga at the forefront instead. Most folks assumed I was looking for big titles to watch, or some undisputed champion, or maybe some other crack theory. This is the post where I break it all down. Why I ran the whole thing, how the whole tournament went along, and just some overall thoughts on the experience as well.

I’m sure those of you who follow this blog noticed something this year. I’ve been fairly inactive, and my posts have been becoming less and less frequent. This is for a number of reasons, but the number one bona-fide reason? I was in a creative rut. I always strive to try to make things, and I want them to feel individualized, and have tons of heart put into them. I’ve been debating on what sort of things I’ve wanted to produce here lately, and I kept trashing or not following through with what I wanted to make. I couldn’t decide what anime I wanted to talk about. This is where the tournament came in. I wanted to try a large-scale social experiment, without telling anyone the context of why I was truly running it. I was curious to see what I could make happen if I just tried something big and sought to involve my community at large. There was always the gamble I would get low participation, but that was something I was wiling to bet on wouldn’t be an issue. I wanted as much as possible, so I organized the Must Watch Anime quest!

The basics for me were simple. Make a massive post where you limit people to only one anime they thought was must watch. If they said more, I just didn’t count it. I didn’t want over saturation, I wanted concrete thought and feelings into these picks. After I assembled a decent chunk of anime, I would then in the background prepare them all for a massive bracket of head to head matches. Folks seemed to think I was hunting recommendations, but that wasn’t the case whatsoever. I then made the massive tournament from the site Challonge(a site I participated in a past Smash Brothers tournament in years ago). I proceeded to make polls that would stay open for an undetermined amount of time for folks to vote for the anime they wanted to win. So, why was I doing all of this?

People are more likely to read posts on a small(and I mean small) time blog like mine if it is something they are more invested in. With me having some serious creative blocks, I wanted to find out what anime the majority of users found to be most compelling. Anime that most users would consider “Must Watch”, normally equate to something they find universally stimulating to watch. I didn’t care what folks put into the tournament or what was even winning, I just wanted to see what would advance. My big plan was to make projects based on the Top 3 to 4 finalists in the end. I would know what anime they are, I could try to make fun unique ideas based on them, and more importantly I got my results with some decent proof of interest as well. All of the tournament was one giant road to help me find something to create. I want to make stuff, and I wanted to make something others would also be invested in seeing. So, later down when I reveal the finalists of the tournament, and my experiences with the totality of it all, I will also be declaring what anime you will be seeing posts related to in the near future. To make this all happen though, well that really is all thanks to the users of Kitsu.

It was a bit of stretch to assume I could get the larger portion of my anime community to just participate in something without a deeper reason. I had to come up with an idea that would make it seem important to them. So the idea of “Must Watch” came to fruition. What else would people clearly want to make their opinion known on in an anime social world? Anime fans LOVE telling others what is good or awful, without thinking their opinion or vision of that anime may be so entirely biased that others wouldn’t see it the same way. Making a competition out of the idea was perfect fodder for producing results, so that is what I went with. If I made a massive tournament, which anime would make it in, which anime would win, and what sort of response would I get?

Oh how fun it is to see how much criticism one can receive for something as arbitrary as an anime tournament.

The Tournament/Criticisms

I was lucky enough to have a fairly high participation in this event I orchestrated. I got a huge amount of responses, and in the end 67 anime ended up getting to go up against each other. Everything from big names like Naruto to obscure things I hadn’t even heard of due to them not really being popular. The odds on favorite was clearly the might Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood though however. From that point forward, I made a randomized bracket, started doing poll based matches on strawpoll, and let the people decide upon their winners. Before I talk about the results, and drama of the whole things, I want to talk about some specific complaints I got throughout the entire competition. Because, what is more fun then breaking down people’s criticisms!?

  • Why is the tournament randomized? It should be this match versus this match and so forth? It makes much more sense to have it set up this way so only the best and clear better shows make it to the end!

This was one of the most interesting ones that I came across. I suppose people always view these things differently. I purposefully made everything randomized to help make it feel more like the match-ups were obvious from the start. If you make things too straightforward you ruin the fun of the first few rounds, and all the picks become mostly predictable due to trying to make it all go a certain way. I absolutely didn’t want the tournament to feel like I had fixed any of the matches.

  • It’s a shame people are voting on things when they haven’t seen both of the shows. You should only vote if you have seen both of them.

While this dilemma was one I could sympathize with in the end I disagree once again. So, the point of this tournament was to produce results from frequent participation. If I limited users to a rule like this or berated them for it as well, I feel this would have undermined my intentions. While I get the ideology of it being unfair and swayed I felt it was more genuine. Most anime fans have only seen so much that is out there, so if I make a huge hubbub that they should have seen both then my results for this tournament would have been significantly less. I wanted people to have the freedom to approach this with their feelings and knowledge. If someone was ignorant of something and voted against it, so be it. If they had seen neither but only heard of one, so be it. It was all part of the social construct I was running for this experiment. To see what people would do even if it was absolutely guaranteed they would not have all seen every show, it utterly fascinated me.

  • Well it was just a popularity contest in the end so who cares am I right?

Maybe the dumbest thing that a ton of you said. Do you realize how stupid it is to say that a voting contest is a popularity contest? Like no shit guys, that is how voting works. For elections, for nominations, for arbitrary anime contests, whoever the majority likes more wins. That is plain commonsense. You are literally stating a fact in the end right there. And if it was as simple as that then this tournament would have been full of Ghibli films and things like Death Note would have made it super far. Popularity was a part of any shows long-standing fan base, but there is also how well it is told, and many other attributes as well. If you said anything about this being a popularity contest…I mean duh.

The Tournament/The Experience

It is a true marvel how disrespectful and unruly folks can be isn’t it? I swear on so many of the posts I made, users would just plain insult the other show without any recourse for people who may also love it instead. I’m all for honesty and what not, but boy people really don’t know how to exercise their opinion without some form of harshness it seems. Only a few users stayed consistent with their respectful display of words on matchups. The majority just said their piece unabashed. I even saw several fights break out, a few people get blocked, and the worst of it all, some filthy cheating.

Yes, I had to abandon strawpoll towards the last leg of the overall bracket due to some rather dubious rigged numbers. I was highly aware strawpoll could be abused, but I was putting my faith that users wouldn’t be so petty as to do that. On at least 2 separate occasions, however they did just that. I had to move to a different location for my polls, and Google Forms became the permanent and overall better choice to run the final portion of the whole tournament. Outside of a few matches though, the majority seemed to run smoothly and the 3 or so months of anime competition was a blast.

A huge amount of passion went into users voting, and cheering on their respective wanted winners. I can definitely say this turned out to be far more eventful than I imagined it would be. On average I was getting anywhere from 30-70 votes per match, and while that isn’t a ton for some onlookers, it meant to me regular voting was in fact happening. It was a decent pull for the irregular schedule I kept, and really made me happy to see such consistent backing.

Results

You know, when you try to set something up like this, some obvious things will happen. I knew some anime would make it in from the get go, and I also knew some anime would easily make it far as well. That is just a matter of probability of course. I did though, have plenty of surprises that occurred throughout! I won’t talk about every single match, but I do want to talk about at least a handful that were memorable, surprising, or noteworthy.

Fight-O!!

Round 1

  • Your Name vs School Days. Your Name wins 30 to 21.

Color me surprised that anyone thought School Days would have been tossed in that hat even as a joke. It was however, a completely serious pick and held its own against the most successful anime film of the past decade. I’m a bit shocked how many votes it got even if some were for the luls.

  • Love Live! vs. Bakemonogatari.  Love Live! Wins 92 to 64.

Ah the first time cheating for sure occurred. The amount of votes were staggering, but I think for Bake they were all true. Bake had several people on Kitsu campaign for it, yet it still lost by almost 30 votes. Clearly there was cheating that happened since in the following round Love Live! would lose to Higurashi of all series. As much as that series has a cult following, I for sure thought it would lose, but in the end that confirmed my earlier suspicions and Bake was knocked out early and unfairly.

  • Koe no Katachi vs Monster. Koe wins 46 to 42.

I will admit I was sad to see Monster lose to something so recent. Koe is a fine film in its own regard but I’m sure in 5 years time the luster will fade and Monster would have won this match. Sometimes the classics that people hold dearly though just lose out to current anime trends and popularity. Normally I think most who have seen both would vote for Monster, so this was a good case in point of seeing how Koe being more marketable and watched gave it a surprising edge for the win.

  •  Samurai Champloo vs Death Note. Sam Cham wins 35 to 34.

I pegged Death Note as a several round winner for sure with the mass love it garners by most folks. I know Samurai Champloo is great and all, but Death Note is one of the most seen anime of all time, so honestly this was the biggest first round upset for sure. I love the unexpected though.

  • My Neighbor Totoro vs. Shinsekai Yori. Totoro loses 22 to 36.

I was firstly baffled no other Ghibli film was suggested by anyone for this tournament. Koe and Your Name, but no Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, or Spirited Away? How unique our community can be I tell ya. So, I tossed Totoro in myself assuming it would do well enough, being you know, freaking Totoro and all, and it ups and loses in the first round. Odd to see, since it is one of the most beloved anime films of all time, and I saw this being a close match, but instead a total blowout.

Round 2

  • Koe no Katachi vs Baccano!. Koe win 30 to 24.

Yet again I was caught off guard with how strong the storm of this newer film really was. Bacano is one of the most well liked and talked about anime of the past decade, and Koe certainly would do well, but not well enough to triumph over it right? Nope, once again, Koe took a strong foothold over a well liked classic, and made itself known by the masses for a victory.

  • Ghost in the Shell(1995) vs. Akira. GITS wins in a blowout 32 to 12.

I really thought this would be one of the biggest bouts of the whole competition. And GITS just curbstomps the ever-living hell out of Akira. I thought this would be so very close, and yet it was one of the clear winners in just a few minutes. How wrong could I be? I suppose I didn’t expect so many to have read the manga for Akira, but that seemed to be its nail in the coffin.

  • Welcome to the NHK vs Neon Genesis Evangelion. NHK wins 36 to 30.

I was gearing up for an awesome, Bebop vs Eva match when Eva beat NHK….but wait a minute, that isn’t what happened. Eva got beaten fair and square and was gone for the remainder of it all? God damn, this took the cake for upset wins in the second round.

  • Steins;Gate vs Gurren Lagann. Steins;Gate wins 62 to 59.

Don’t let that 3 vote margin fool you. This was the most back and forth match in the entire tournament. This was true finals worthy. Big boy shows going head to head with their massive fanbases, and it all came to head here in just the second round. This one had at least a dozen leads change of just a vote or two. It was maybe the most fun match of all to watch.

  • Shinsekai Yori vs. Legend of the Galactic Heroes. SSY wins 26 to 21.

Low voting doesn’t count how cool it was for something like this  to happen. I really assumed LOTGH was a shoe in for the final 8 or so. Maybe even further, due to the massive reputation it holds even today. Not so though. SSY wins knocks out another classic anime from the 80’s to move on, and suddenly it became a favorite to make it towards the end of the tournament.

Round 3/4

  • Round 3. Your Name vs. Parasyte. Parasyte wins 36 to 31.
  • Round 4. Parasyte vs. Shinsekai Yori. Parasyte wins 19 to 18.

Wow, just wow, this is the unsung hero of the competition. No one else was more of a darling underdog than Parasyte. It beat Your Name and SSY who had earned their ways fair and square past some pretty good opponents. I picked Parasyte to lose both of them, and holy shucks Batman, it managed narrow wins over juggernauts. This made Parasyte the major surprise entrant into the final four.

  • Round 4. Berserk(1997) vs. FMA Brotherhood. FMA wins 48 to 7.

So, why bring this one up? It looks like a landslide right? This was because this was the most controversial match of them all. This was the match where I spotted cheating once again, but this time, I was able to confirm it during the course of it all. Berserk, no matter what happened in the voting against FMA would always magically gather a 5 votes lead just minutes after FMA took the lead itself. This happened on more than a half-dozen occasions in the same day. I make a public post announcing my findings, and did a revote with a new site, and everything was set back to square one. The result from there was obvious, even though I’m sure some bias was in play from the cheating knowledge. I feel bad for the honest voters, but truly, I want to give a sly smirk towards the one who was cheating, and let them know one thing. You lost, and you lost badly.

The semi finals and Final.

The Semi Final matches were FMA Brotherhood vs Bebop, and Steins;Gate vs Parasyte the Maxim. I’m sure 3 of those 4 weren’t too surprising. I’d say 80% of the  total matches of the tournament were easy enough to predict a winner for, and be right too. Parasyte’s luck finally ran out here, and it got absolutely trounced by Steins;Gate. FMA and Bebop had a much closer match, but in the end Bebop was finally the one to upset the odds on favorite of the tournament.

Before I announce the winner of the tournament, here is a link of the full results for those who are curious. https://challonge.com/MUSTWATCHANIME2

And the winner is……

See ya Next Time Space Cowboy…

That is right! Ladies, Gentleman, and space cowboys alike, the overall champion of this competition was Cowboy Bebop! Ten years ago, before FMA was around, I would have picked it to be the winner, and it looks like it still is holding tight as the general consensus has spoken. Cowboy Bebop is the Must Watch Anime of 2018 as voted by the people of Kitsu.io. This means the following series will get a special treatment from me over the next few months.

Cowboy Bebop will get an episode by episode analytic breakdown of what makes the series so special. I will not only be talking about what the anime does well, but what it was influenced by, why it is so influential, and much much more.

Steins;Gate will get a thematic review. I will have to look at the series to decide which theme I want to tackle in-depth, but I will make sure to give the series a proper intellectually written piece.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood will get a Month of celebration. Similar to what I did with One Piece last year, I will do a variety of posts in regards to FMA as a franchise. This will be geared towards FMA as a whole, but Brotherhood will take center stage when it can. I also hope to get my last One Piece list from last year done for you folks as well.

Well, I think that just about covers everything that was important. I did enjoy reading all the feedback most of you left me on the last poll. I read all of them, and some of them gave me a laugh too. It was interesting to see what everyone saw from this whole process. However, for me everything went accordingly to plan, and I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Thank you all for the participation, thank you all for dealing with my sloppy writing, and thank you all for your overall support! I shall see you soon my little wanderers!