This review contains spoilers for the reviewed material. This is your only warning.
What is a “bad anime”, exactly? If it’s an anime that fails at being something it’s trying to be, I find it difficult to stick the label on Big Order. Because on the one hand, the 2016 manga adaption seems to know exactly what it wants to be. On the other hand, maybe a “bad anime” is an anime whose very aims are somehow defective. Being a case where “what it wants to be” is arguably somewhere between “bad for the medium” and “reprehensible”, Big Order‘s a bit of a hard one to evaluate. Too beholden to a wide slate of action-anime cliches to be truly unique. Too weird to be rightly called generic. Big Order largely succeeds in its aims, but that very same success makes the series impossible to defend. Speaking less roundaboutly; this show sucks and you probably shouldn’t watch it unless you have a fascination with shows that suck.
Very broadly, Big Order is about people who have superpowers based on “wishes” they had at the time a disaster called The Great Destruction (yes, really) hit, circa ten in-show years ago. This ostensibly-kinda-interesting premise means very little, because in practice these powers–called Orders–can just kind of Do Whatever in all but a few cases. Our protagonist is Eiji Hoshimiya, a chuuni’s dream. In a more self-aware show, the similarity of his first name to the word “edgy” might be deliberate. Eiji accidentally killed billions-with-a-B people when he got his Order, causing the Great Destruction in the first place.
If that seems like an odd fit for a protagonist, it’s here where we have to break out our critical lens. Because very little about Big Order makes much literal sense, and internal logic phases in and out at the story’s whim. However, considered through the prism of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the stereotyped ideal anime-watcher (that is to say, a young straight man), everything clicks into place perfectly. In this way, Big Order is a bad anime, but an excellent peek into the mind of the kind of person who thinks good anime begins with Code Geass and ends with Darling in The FranXX. Which is to say it is also a ten-car-pileup of barely-disguised fetish plots, some more objectionable than others. A large chunk of Big Order revolves around Eiji’s desire to save his sister from her Incurable Anime Disease. If you guessed that they’re also hot for each other, put your chip on your bad anime bingo card.
Along its ten episodes, Big Order manages to hit stops that include Eiji accidentally (but only temporarily!) impregnating a girl by touching her fake bunny ears.
There’s also a man with a sword that can cut through time and space. A final episode plastered with an awful-looking monochrome filter in what I dearly hope is not a misguided attempt to homage Gunbuster. And the entire character arc of Rin; who enters the series in episode one trying to murder Eiji for killing her parents, and by the tenth minute of episode two has been mind controlled by Eiji’s ill-defined powers and wants to hatefuck him. I’m not normally this crass when writing on this blog, but no other language exists for Big Order. It is a crass anime.
This is to say nothing of the anime’s ugly thematic heart. Much ink has been spilled over the otaku persecution complex, a phenomenon that has given us many of the worst light novels, manga, and anime of recent years. It feels fair to say that it’d be hard to top Big Order, though. Eiji’s responsibility for the Great Destruction becomes public knowledge early on, and by consequence, the entire world hates him. Combined with his near-omnipotent powers and you have a character who has both the ability and moral license to do whatever he wants. He uses it, too. The above example with Rin is just one of several. The show’s entire premise reeks of repressed straightboy nerd “I’ll show them for making fun of me!” rage. This kind of dynamic has sexist echoes throughout the entirety of art, and it’s certainly no knock on anyone if they’re plainly sick of it.
Yet, I remained strangely fascinated with the show as I watched. All of this would ruin Big Order if there were anything to ruin. What prevents Big Order from falling into the lowest rung of mainstream TV anime is that it is a bizarre combination of astoundingly incompetent, yet tightly-edited. Things just kind of happen, but often in very entertaining ways. Episode four remains the show’s most infamous, featuring the aforementioned plot point of ear-pregnancy combined with Eiji and co. running to and ‘fro throughout a war-torn city and trying to come up with a way to stop it from being nuked. The entire series is this level of unintentionally hilarious. In a more self-aware show, it would seem deliberate, but Big Order‘s full-tilt commitment to its own inane thematic core makes it impossible to believe it’s anything but accidental. In this way, the show is enjoyable if you like seeing an anime fall apart at the seams when its premise and plot are put under the slightest bit of scrutiny. For whatever reason, I kind of do.
On the whole, Big Order is the rare series I’d say has fully earned the term “guilty pleasure”. It’s a kind of bitterly ironic that despite Big Order being a financial flop, the only project animating studio Asread has worked on recently is the similarly-reviled Arifutera. I’d say “you reap what you sow”, but the complex dynamics of how a studio picks up a show to work on render that moot. Besides, no one deserves to work on Big Order-quality projects forever, it’s simply too cruel.
All views expressed on Magic Planet Anime are solely my own opinions and conclusions and should not be taken to reflect the opinions of any other persons, groups, or organizations. All text is owned by Magic Planet Anime. Do not duplicate without permission. All images are owned by their original copyright holders.