I quite famously wrote an essay decrying Mushoku Tensei as the worst anime ever made, because I’m a clickbaiting hack and you really ought to know better by now. Since then, I have received a large amount of comments, DMs, emails, etc., that even if I don’t like Mushoku Tensei, it’s far from the worst anime ever made. Heck, even if I’m judging by anime I consider gross, it’s not actually that crazy.
So, while I want to be taken seriously when I say I have a new contender for the worst anime ever made, I know my credibility has worn thin. So don’t just take my word for it; I will make my case and let you come to your own conclusions. This is still subjective, obviously, and you may not get as much mileage out of it as I did, but oh boy, do I hate Supercrooks.
My expectations were actually pretty high starting out. Studio Bones rarely disappoints, and if you can’t tell from my multiple essays gushing over Beastars and one even defending Record of Ragnarok, I’m a Jonah Scott simp. I was willing to give Supercrooks a shot on that alone.
The problems started when I realized this was based on a comic by Mark Millar, and they didn’t stop there.
Can I be real for a second? I read Watchmen in high school and it dismantled every assumption I’d ever made about the superhero stories I was obsessed with at the time. Now, though, everyone and their mother wants to be Watchmen.
I rolled my eyes at the first trailer for The Boys, and I didn’t buy into the hype of Invincible when those memes were big. I only watched Supercrooks because I figured the animation and voice acting could carry it. The subgenre of “superheroes can be garbage people too” is a little too big at this point, consider it’s a pretty blatant attempt by companies like Amazon and Netflix to aim for the untapped market of guys who didn’t care when Captain America picked up Mjolnir.
Super Crooks is written by Mark Millar, who has made a name for himself on this style of genre satires. I won’t completely write his work off, because I’m probably the only person in 2022 who still cares about Kingsman, even if it’s filled with the same dumb indulgent crap I’m about to complain about.
I just can’t help but roll my eyes at stuff like Kick-Ass, which seems to be tailor-made for a group of people I don’t like. If you dislike superhero movies, cool, but quit making movies and shows about superheroes for those people. You know them, they’re on Twitter right now, still seething that The Batman didn’t involve killing criminals with guns.
Super Crooks is…basically the same idea as those other series I mentioned, but it has supervillains. Johnny Bolt (that is his government name, I assure you) is a villain who controls electricity. He gets out of jail, attempts the heist of the century against the knock-off Justice League at the knock-off Hall of Justice with a ragtag group of misfits. Along the way we learn that, gasp, maybe the superheroes were the real bad guys all along!
Normally, this type of story compares the sympathetic points of the villains compared to the corruption of the heroes. We need the traditional field of good versus evil to be leveled out, if not completely flipped. The trouble with that is that I hate literally every character in Super Crooks.
First, I must address Johnny Bolt, who stands out as the pinnacle of the most frustrating characters ever conceived. In the first episode, Johnny is released after his brief stint in prison and reunites with his loving girlfriend Kasey, who tries to convince him to stay out of jail for even a minute. He immediately ditches her to get together with some of his buddies and start robbing jewelry stores.
Their plan is, and I’m not joking or even taking this out of context, is to rob a bunch of places really fast so that the cops and superheroes can’t catch them. This stroke of genius runs into the obvious problems you’d expect, and then they encounter the Praetorian, whose power is that he literally pulls superpowers out of a deck of cards. Johnny narrowly avoids death or incarceration because apparently Kasey has mind control powers, and retains his freedom.
You would think this is a learning moment for our protagonist. He’s stuck in this cycle of committing petty crime for the cheap thrill of it, to the detriment of himself and others. This new plan to knock off the knock-off Hall of Justice is the score of a lifetime, permanently breaking that cycle and giving our ‘heroes’ the means to determine their own fate.
Then the plan fails, and you almost think this is the best-case scenario. Sure, they didn’t get rich, but Johnny and Casey are still alive and not in prison, and he proposes to her, promising to go straight. With better pacing, it would have been a strong character-driven story that subverts the tropes of the heist genre…and then Johnny’s idiot friends show up again.
The drunken bachelor party sequence is some of the most nauseating television I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching. Let me stress how irritating it is to watch a character that the writers really want you to like, who makes the same stupid mistakes and gets slapped with the same obvious consequences.
Johnny Bolt is not an inherently bad character. He’s written as a suave smooth talker type with a soft spot for Kasey and whose plans usually wind up coming back to bite him. He has layers, the character writing and competent voice acting to back it up, but the story’s hammy writing stymies his development at every turn.
Protagonists aren’t just allowed to make mistakes; they’re encouraged to. The point of a story is to see someone grow and change to meet a challenge they couldn’t overcome at the beginning. Johnny, though, never grows up, never changes, never learns his lesson. He’s a stupid thug when the show begins, and even after being taught the same lesson that stupid get rich quick schemes don’t work three times, he is still a stupid thug, but now he got rich quick and his girlfriend likes him again.
And then there’s Kasey. I cannot fathom why she would ever like a loser like Johnny other than the fact that the story needs her there as a device for easy fanservice and the barest of motivation for Johnny to succeed and do better, which he doesn’t. The weird part is that even though the story treats her and her literal mind control powers as secondary to her sex appeal, she’s one of the most bizarrely competent characters in a show that does not care if any of its cast are smart or well-rounded.
Most of the team of crooks are just idiots, washed up, or both, but they generally have a flaw or trait that holds them back from being law-abiding citizens. Johnny’s an adrenaline junky, Carmine can’t get past the fact that his glory days are long gone, the Diesel brothers are literally too dumb to do anything else. I can see why these guys would try to steal from the most powerful people in the world.
Kasey, though, is intelligent, hard working, and has one of the most useful powers in the series that she conveniently never uses for her own gain. Like, she works as a waitress for most of the series, and apparently never thought that controlling a person’s mind could be useful. Literally, her only flaw is that she has poor taste in men, which is…not a good look for your only female character.
And I’m only going to talk about those two, because let’s be real, they’re the only ones worth mentioning, even if it’s mostly negative. The rest of the crew gets their one allotted character trait, and they’re usually ripped from better heist stories.
So, if the writing is a wash, then at least it was produced by Bones, and by the same division that gave us Mob Psycho 100. When they’re not splitting their priorities with yet another non-canon My Hero Academia movie, they occupy the top tier of anime studios. That ought to mean that Super Crooks as at least a treat for the eyes, but you’d be wrong. In fact, it’s such a remarkably poor showing from Bones that I’m confused as to how it got this bad.
The character designs are nothing special. You could blame the original comic for that, but most of them have been altered at least somewhat, so I don’t know what the deal is. The line art is simple, which usually leads to fluid animation, but there’s some downright awful scenes here, and the characters often just look wrong.
CG has never been Bones’ strong suit, but they have a sufficient grasp on the technology in most of their work so that it’s not glaring, but…you can probably guess how it goes in Super Crooks. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood had better CG than Super Crooks more than a decade ago. They often use CG character models for background shots, similar to how Ufotable saves time for their big-budget sequences, but they’re so jarring that I’m confounded as to how this got past quality assurance.
Pretty much the only part worth praising is the opening, since it has the benefit of a strong creative vision, solid visuals, and a song that gives it a pleasant music video vibe. It’s not perfect, but it’s a weird display of talent when there’s so little left to go around.
By now, I’ve established that Super Crooks is bad. I’d even go so far to say it’s terrible, but that doesn’t make it my new “worst anime ever made”. It isn’t that the characters are poorly written, or the story is an excuse for those characters to participate in mediocre fight scenes, or that it looks like crap; it’s the fact that Great Pretender is everything this show wants to be.
A lowlife crook is recruited into a gang of ambitious thieves looking to rob the extraordinarily wealthy and the extraordinarily scummy, which keeps us rooting for them. The protagonist flirts with giving up the lifestyle, but he’s perpetually drawn back in by the thrills and satisfaction of lifting valuables from someone who well and truly deserves it. Super Crooks is just a bootleg Great Pretender with superpowers.
It doesn’t help that this anime came out a year after Great Pretender set a new bar for heist anime, nor that Wit Studio gave it their all here. And if you’re not convinced already, then Super Crooks’ ED isn’t the song by Freddie Mercury that the show takes its name from. So, yeah, no contest here.
Heist stories are so much fun because they demand intricacy and competent if not consistent writing, which is why the bad ones stand out so sorely. If you wanted to watch Super Crooks, do yourself a favor and just watch Great Pretender, even if that last arc is kind of mid.
If I wanted to belabor the point, I could talk about the story, but it’s all tied up in Johnny’s ‘arc’, so there’s no need. The characters just bend and contort to whatever the plot needs them to do to be in an action sequence that was planned way before the writers devised a meaningful reason for them to be there.
I thought Super Crooks could at least be a good turn my brain off and watch a dumb action anime, but it’s just not possible. The plot and character writing fall back in their own sloppiness so frequently that they force me to think about it, which defeats the purpose. There’s no moments of style or flare that could get me to put aside the part of my brain that doesn’t care about the explosions because I don’t care about the characters.
There’s plenty to pick apart, but ugh, I’m just tired and hate everything about this show. What it is, what it tries to be, the characters, every molecule of its being. And that’s disappointing, because it was a decently fun time for a couple episodes.
It was never going for anime of the year, but it wasn’t until Johnny committed the same idiotic mistake for the third time that my eyes glazed over and I wondered why I wasn’t rewatching Great Pretender. Actually, that sounds like a good idea, maybe I’ll go do that next until the searing migraine Super Crooks left me with leaves.
So, um, like the essay, tell me if you think there’s a worse anime out there. I know Ex-Arm came out the same year, so I can’t even say it’s actually the worst anime of 2021, much less ever made, but it’s my blog, and writing 2,000 words on how much I hate this show has only made my feelings that much stronger. You can tell me I’m wrong in the comments or on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku where I already trashed on this show. Until next time, thanks for reading. Ugh, I’m going to go take some aspirin.
One response to “The New WORST Anime Ever Made”
Wow, that is a very detailed reason to hate Super Crooks. Kudos for your in depth analysis! I have to admit, I also get really annoyed by characters that make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Though I have more experience with this in shojo anime. The first anime that comes to mind is Peach Girl. This is a girl’s high school drama anime. The main character gets manipulated and stabbed in the back by the same “friend” over and over again and the MC never seems to learn to just stay away from the other girl. I got so frustrated with the MC, I don’t think I finished the series.
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