While the story stresses the importance of working hard, Hard Work Hardly Works for anyone. All powerful characters have some form of power such as a bloodline limit, sheer talent, a sealed demonic beast or a cursed seal. Some people get lots of these. On the other hand, the characters notably lacking in talent like Rock Lee are badly outclassed despite working far, far harder than the likes of Naruto or Sasuke. Naruto, to put these points together, was a slacker at the beginning of the series, doesn't work as hard as Rock Lee and has The Gift in at least three forms. In other words, Naruto's sheer talent and plot coupons steamrolled all resistance.
The moral of the Chuunin Exam's Naruto vs Neji fight was rather ironic: hard work will trump natural talent and a big heap of Screw Destiny was thrown into the mix. What brought him victory? If you guessed Naruto utilizing The Gift, you're actually right! His own natural gift/curse was simply way stronger than his opponent's! Seeing how his opponent's belief was that, regardless of your efforts, you'd never beat someone who was simply more talented, Naruto inadvertently proved Neji right. Eventually Neji fulfills his destined role as a branch member by sacrificing himself for Hinata, thus choosing to remain a caged bird.
The intended aversion of You Can't Fight Fate was also slapped in the face right from the start, considering how prevalent Generation Xerox, family bloodlines and prophecy are in this series. Sakura, Sasuke and Naruto match up with the legendary Sannin and the latter two are members of powerful clans that trace back to the creator of Ninjutsu. Sasuke and Naruto in particular match up almost perfectly with the Sage's two sons.
Naruto only has the gift/curse of the Kyuubi chakra because of who his parents are. If he hadn't been born the son of the Fourth Hokage Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina, he'd never have had the Kyuubi sealed in him. So, Neji was right in the fact that your birth determines your lot in life.
On the other hand, Neji, after his defeat and finding out the truth about his father's death, concedes in an internal monologue that some things are predetermined, but the ones who pursue their dreams are truly strong. Naruto had the gifts from the beginning, but he wouldn't have succeeded as a ninja if he didn't put so much effort into improving himself.
There's the theme of the new generations surpassing the previous ones - this is, in theory, why Naruto and Sasuke manage to become stronger thanKakashi, Jiraiya, Orochimaru, and the like. However, that idea is utterly negated by the revelation that Madara Uchiha is capable of effortlessly defeating all five Kages at once. Hashirama was even stronger than that, and it seems as though only characters who were members of the older generation are allowed to accomplish anything meaningful during the Fourth Great Shinobi War - Itachi is the only one who can negate Edo Tensei, Tobi's plan would have failed a long time ago without Madara, in fact it actually was Madara's plan in the first place and the First Hokage (instead of Naruto, who would be the logical choice) talked Sasuke out of his insane vengeance scheme.
In the beginning, teamwork was considered very important and nearly everytime someone tries to apply this, someone end up greviously injured or worse. Particularly the Chunnin Exams, where you use teamwork to get pass but the finals stage completely turns this around. Turning everything into a one-on-one tournament.
One of the main morals of Naruto, as stated by Kakashi, is that while those who break the rules are scum, those who forsake their fellows are even lower than that. We found out that Kakashi inherited this philosophy from Obito, who would have been killed if Kakashi had just followed through with the mission. Instead we have Kakashi rescue Obito, who through a series of events was able to become Tobi. So if Kakashi had abandoned his comrades and completed the mission, Obito would have died instead of becoming Tobi. Then Nagato probably wouldn't have gone as insane, Naruto's parents would have survived and Naruto wouldn't have been an outcast, the elders wouldn't have ostracized the Uchiha which led to the Uchiha Massacre (making Sasuke nowhere near as messed up), the Moon's Eye Plan would have died with Madara, the Fourth Great Shinobi World War would have been avoided, and Akatsuki wouldn't be hunting down and killing Jinchuriki. Nice job screwing over the aesop, Kishimoto.
Code Geass. While Lelouch himself did live and die according to his own personal code, in the sense that only the ones who are prepared to be killed should be willing to kill, several other characters who did not follow the same ethical standards weren't punished for their own crimes. In that respect, the initial Aesop would still apply to the protagonist, but not to certain characters like Cornelia, Ohgi and Villetta that can be classified under Karma Houdini. Another issue concerns whether Lelouch's atonement through Suicide by Cop may have resulted in an unspecified amount of implied death and destruction that could have been avoided by using other alternative methods.
Pokémon: The First Movie, dubbed version: the moral was that all fighting is bad! In a series which most Pokémon were competitively fighting every episode - the sheer idea that fighting is bad was apparently lost on many younger children. The original Japanese version averted this, as that moral was "Doesn't matter how you were born, everyone is equal."
In a very early episode of the anime, a moral about finishing what you started (and not making up excuses for stuff) was broken. The first thing that happens is that the Samurai pulls a sword on Ash just when he's about to catch a little Weedle. When Ash naturally didn't catch the Weedle, it gets away and then warns a swarm of Beedrill, which attacked everyone before seizing Ash's new Metapod! Now Ash goes out to fetch Metapod, making his best effort- when Team Rocket shows up to harass him more! In the end, Ash's last "excuse" was that he got sidetracked, he admits that everything was his fault - when in fact, NOTHING was. So it's a case of Never My Fault by the Samurai, who blamed Ash for the mess he started in the first place!
The Trubbish episode had a teacher trying to get rid of a Trubbish, which is a living garbage bag. The kids in her class scream and disobey their teacher because they want to keep it. We're supposed to see Daniella as a mean, stubborn teacher who wasn't listening to their concerns. But the kids just demanded they get their way, and Daniella was concerned about the kids playing with living garbage that spat out toxic fumes - there's a reason kids in this series have to be a certain age to own Pokémon, after all.
It has been stated that trained Pokémon are stronger than wild ones, so Pokémon Trainers must train them and can't expect to win battles using untrained ones. This sends the message that you must work hard in order to attain your goals and can't be lazy and expect to get things done the easy way. Yet every time Ash used Pokémon that he had never trained or even used once (ie: Tauros and Krabby) during Pokémon League note whose trainers participaing in are supposed to be some of the strongest in the region matches during the original series, they kicked far more ass than most of those he had used through most of his journey (ie: the Kanto starters). His Krabby evolved into Kingler in the very first Pokémon Battle it participated in when most of the Pokémon Ash had with him for most of his journey and had participated in dozen of battles were still unevolved. The same thing had happened earlier with Ash's Primeape: it won a Pokémon fighting tournament despite being a freshly caught Pokémon that had never been trained or used in a battle before. In the same tournament participated a guy called Anthony who used a Hitmonchan he had been obsessively training to to the point of neglecting his family, yet he didn't even get to the finals. In fact, Anthony was so impressed by Ash's Primeape that he offered to take it under his mantle and train it, apparently thinking it was worth more than his highly trained Hitmonchan.
To add insult to the injury, during the Johto League, the Pokémon that won most matches and proved to be Ash's strongest was Charizard, who had been training in Charicific Valley without Ash's participation. So while it was a trained Pokémon this time, it sends the message that you can be lazy and let others do the work for you. It even beat Gary's strongest Pokémon, Blastoise, despite this one having a type advantage and being probably the Pokémon Gary had spent the most time training.
In the second N-related episode, he tries to protect a Braviary from Team Plasma.note N isn't a member of Team Plasma in this continuity. Just go along with it. When Team Plasma sends out two Pokémon to fight him, he expresses his wish that he could rescue them from Team Plasma so that they could return to the wild and live in peace. The problem is that the two Pokémon he's talking to are Zangoose and Seviper, who are using successful teamwork while in Team Plasma's hands, while their entire characterization in the franchise is how they will fight each other to the death in the wild. While some of N's opinions are countered by Ash and friends, this one is not addressed.
Mahou Sensei Negima!'s protagonist seems to break two primary Aesops which he himself claimed to believe in:
Firstly the series' quote: "Our Magic is not omnipotent... a little bit of courage is the real magic" is thrown out the window the moment the Shōnen features of the series kick in, with the protagonist, Negi, wanting more and more magical power and not showing any courage and/or confidence against opponents unless he knows he has more power than them to the point of obtaining Black Magic to do so. Though characters like Asuna, Ako and Nodoka show courage in the romance department, it's shown that the girls without their Pactios (magical contracts where Negi gives them power) are essentially The Load. Thus the series teaches us "You need to be brave... but without magic you're screwed".
Secondly, the Aesop: "We are all the main characters of our own lives" seem broken when you notice that the secondary characters only get a A Day in the Limelight when their debatable Character Development has something to do with Negi. And those that don't, like Setsuna, end up Out of Focus even when facing their own rival in the series. Made particularly egregious the fact that Akamatsu doesn't believe this Aesop aplies to the anyone except Negi is when Kotaro says: "Negi... you're the star". Which seems somewhat Out of Character for a Hot-Blooded, Boisterous Bruiser like him.
Then we have a third Aesop everyone tries to make Negi learn, which is impossible since he suffers from a severe case of Aesop Amnesia; it is that team work is important and you can't do anything alone. While this Aesop is followed through in the Festival arc, it ends up being forgotten since Negi's True Companions end up being reduced to We Are Team Cannon Fodder. Negi defeats Fate on his own and Ala Alba can't do anything but let Ala Rubra and Evangeline sort everything else out.
So to sum it up secondary characters can follow the Aesops while the main character can't.
Ojamajo Doremi: An episode of the Naisho OVA ends with Seki-sensei chewing out the anchor leg of her room's opponents in a swimming relay for not trying as hard as Aiko. One, the opponents won that race, and two, after all her hard practicing, Aiko didn't even compete.
Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro ep. 14 ends with a message about how people shouldn't be so intolerant of other people's cultures. The hypocrisy is that this is delivered in reaction to the antics of possibly the most xenophobic and offensive depiction of an American in anime since 1945. However, a later chapter reveals that the American had been the first test subject of the electronic drug, which exaggerates something a person likes in order to warp them into psychotic killers, making the Eagleland stereotype something of an Exploited Trope. If Yako and the others (possibly even the readers) hadn't been blinded by the stereotype of Americans, they likely would have realized that something was wrong much sooner. So, don't let yourself be blinded by negative stereotypes, kids. If you do, an evil computerwill take over the world.
Mai-Otome: Arika succeeds in her quest to become an Otome not because of the purity of her dream, but because she's the daughter of Lena Sayers and so the authorities (first and foremost, Natsuki) are willing to bend the rules for her. And she's a powerful Otome for the same reason: she has inherited the genes and the gems from Lena.
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX states repeatedly that having fun at a game is more important than who wins and who loses. Judai, the main character, very nearly wins every time, and many of his duels have nothing at stake, so it's not as though he couldn't afford a few black marks on his record. It's even worse when you take into account how much importance the card game is given in-universe; the same level as friggin politics and economics. This is eventually deconstructed and becomes the driving point of the plot, with Judai realizing how broken his Aesop is after the duels stop being fun, the stakes are increased, and that he wins all the time regardless.
Amu Hinamori, lead Magical Girl in Shugo Chara!, spends most of her filler episodes telling other children a number of different aesops, usually variations on "you're great just the way you are", but Amu herself can't grasp these lessons when they apply to herself. Particularly in the latter half of the season when Amu's fourth egg, Dia, turns into an X-egg, resulting in several episodes worth of Heroic BSOD.
In Sailor Moon, the "Sailor Moon Says" segments forced Aesops into the dub that were never intended. It's notorious for ridiculous morals that have nothing to do with the episode. In one particular episode, Serena is distraught over Molly's infatuation with Nephlyte, the villain of the current arc. Serena attempts to convey this by blurting out a bunch of nonsense at her, and then running away to avoid talking about her personal life. Molly then goes on to steal a priceless gem from her mother's jewelry store at Nephlyte's request and is creepily seduced away from her normal behavior as Nephlyte, being around twice her age, easily manipulates her. When the Sailor Scouts confront them both in a park and attack Nephlyte, Molly attempts to protect him by throwing herself in front of Sailor Moon's tiara. When another monster appears, Nephlyte protects Molly from it, and she passes out. Nephlyte teleports away, gloating about how he's one step away from destroying humanity. Sailor Moon's response? To wish upon a star that Nephlyte will conquer the bitterness in his heart. She watches her friend get coerced into sneaking out at night, lying, and stealing from her mother by an abusive older boyfriend, and her solution to seeing how much her friend cares for said abusive boyfriend is to pray that he gets better. That on its own would not be so awful, if difficult to deal with, except that the Aesop we're handed at the end of the episode is that it's important to talk to your friends if they're doing something dangerous— just like it was important to tell Molly the truth about Nephlyte.
In one episode of Ai to Yuuki no Pig Girl Tonde Buurin Karin once got a demo of the Magical Girl form she wished for to try for one day, however she failed solving a dangerous situation making her deliberately become Buurin again to do that. While this was probably meant as a "maybe what you already have is better than you think" but is broken since her demo did not possess any super powers aside flight making it useless as a super form.
Lampshaded by Lacus Clyne in the original Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, when she points out the apparent hypocrisy of their actions: "... calling out for peace with guns in our hands."
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has this happen In-Universe; the protagonists' plan to end war involves attacking anybody who participates in war, regardless of any other factor. Several characters comment on the blatant hypocrisy, and the heroes themselves wonder what they're doing. Turns out it's part of a larger plan, to unite humanity against a common enemy.
One episode of Sgt. Frog has the moral of "Treating building Gunpla models (Or anything else) as Serious Business is bad", which is fine in theory, but it ends coming as "Not putting any effort whatsoever at all on doing things is perfectly acceptable if you're having fun", which is... not as fine. For once, the Golden Mean Fallacy is right: Put some effort on doing things, but don't yell at others for making a simple mistake. Thankfully, Aesop Amnesia saves the day.
One episode of the Blue Dragon anime had the main characters meet a brother/sister pair. The brother wanted to be a Shadow Wielder like the main characters, while the sister hated them. They're then attacked by bandits, and Shu decides not to fight in order to teach the kid that fighting isn't always the answer. This is broken because not only does Shu get the crap beaten out of him, but also because in the end of the episode he goes back and beats up the bandits after the sister tells him that she doesn't hate all Shadow Wielders anymore.
In Bakuman。, the message of the arc in which Mashiro and Takagi get in trouble with their girlfriends is that people in relationships shouldn't keep secrets from one another. Later, when PCP doesn't get an anime, Takagi considers illustrating Shiratori's manga while Mashiro, despite being uncomfortable with the idea, doesn't mention it to Takagi. At the same time, Miyoshi and Azuki never hear that there won't be an anime until Takagi inadvertently mentions it in Miyoshi's presence, and the conflict is mainly between Takagi and Mashiro (mainly because of their conflicting goals; as Mashiro realizes, PCP would help Takagi earn a living as a mangaka, while it does not put Mashiro any closer to fulfilling his promise), not between them and their girlfriends.
The Prince of Tennis: The theme of on-court violence. Tezuka loses his cool a few times in order to deliver this very aesop, yet some of the strongest players such as Kirihara employ this very strategy with few repercussions.
Fairy Tail is big on The Power of Friendship. So much so that many a third of the battles can't be won without it. Lucy gets half her powerups because spirits like how friendly she is with them. Sticking it out for your friends is always the right thing to do... unless you're Jellal, in which case doing so gets you tortured and brainwashed, hated by everyone, and robbed on any semblance of life or freedom.
In Love Hina, the idea is that everything is possible if you try your hardest, even getting into Japan's top university and charming a really hot girl, even though you're a total loser. However, while Keitaro does start off as a really pathetic individual, it does not take long before he turns out to not only be handsome but also a gifted archeologist and martial artist. You'd expect someone who is not really cool or talented to captivate through determination and charm. While Keitaro is very determined, his defeatist, whiny and relatively immature personality, as well as his tremendous clumsiness deeply annoy the girls... It's only when he drops his usual act that the females show any attraction for him, often pointing out that he is very handsome when he is not being annoying. Ultimately- instead of Love Hina being about an underdog accomplishing goals far beyond his reach through determination and The Power of Love, it's actually about someone who was Crazy Awesome from the start but never had the proper motivation to unlock his potential until he met the girl.
Being that it is essentially an In Space! retelling of Seven Samurai, Samurai 7 naturally lifts a lot of its material from the original film. This, unfortunately, includes Kanbei using his movie counterpart's line about how, with the bandits and the samurai having slaughtered each other, the peasants are the only ones who have truly won, at the series end. In contrast to the movie, though, not only are the samurai portrayed here as genuinely heroic, sympathetic characters, but the peasants themselves genuinely care about and trust the samurai.
Lampshaded in YuYu Hakusho. A one-chapter story involves Yusuke investigating an alleged demon haunting at Keiko's school, only to find out that it was perpetrated by two girls trying to force a third off the basketball team because they didn't like her, and as a scholarship student, she wouldn't willingly leave. As the story ends with Yusuke selling the school uniform he borrowed from Keiko online because she refused to pay him, the narrator declares that humans are as bad as demons, if not worse. The author's editor then reminds him "But Yusuke's part demon."
Zekkyou Gakkyuu: In "The Bonds of a Curse", the lead girl, Ai is friendly to a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl-esque Creepy Child with a bad reputation, but openly admiring of a cool-looking, nice-seeming upperclassman. It then turns out said Creepy Child is good-natured and kind, while the upperclassman is a sociopath and bully who tortured a puppy Ai and her class were taking care of, eventually to death. Since the Creepy Child's reputation for cursing is well-founded, Ai asks for her own curse doll, and uses it to kill the upperclassman in retaliation. It's a nice Aesop against Beauty Equals Goodness and judging people by first impressions, with Laser-Guided Karma for the villain. Except that the presenter of the story tacks on an aesop against killing that isn't really supported by the story where the girls face no consequences for their actions, and the final panel of the chapter is a cheerful picture of the two playing with the puppy.
Shinzo. They're trying to say that racism and such is bad and forgiveness is good, yet Enterrans outside of the three heroes are at the best depicted as greedy, sneaky and deceiving, and with one mild exception all of the villains are pure, sadistic evil. If Yakumo forgives someone, they will endanger her life shortly after. The real message becomes : forgiveness is stupid and you can judge people on their appearance.
The 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime starts picking up a message in its second half that revenge is always wrong, and only leads to a cycle of violence. Trouble is, Al, the one most adamant about this, physically stops Marta from taking revenge on Kimblee, who is then left free to do lots more bad stuff before successfully being killed off. You can't help but think a lot more people would have been better off if Al had just let her do it.