On first watching this, I assumed that there would be a point to the proceedings, the unbelievable would be made believable, or at least I would get to see intriguing dynamics.
Episodes passed, each arc documenting some heinous new scheme of Johan or his would-be followers, but none amounted to anything. “Well!” thought I, “Perhaps this, and all else so far, are ACTUALLY pieces in some gigantic jigsaw puzzle metaplot of Johan's that'll TOTALLY PAY OFF in the finale.” Nope. One might argue spoiler
is the plot, but this would ignore the fact that 74 episodes of that exact same inconclusive plot over and over did what could've comfortably been one arc in a better paced story.
In lieu of a worthwhile narrative, seeing the seamy underbelly of society the story's set in could also be a show by itself, but it's simply paraded before us “Insignificant or not, this sure is bad, it can't really be helped either. Are you disgusted by life, or what?”, beyond that, nothing is shown, said, or thought on. Spoonfeeding is bad, but simply tossing (rather derivative) morality plays at viewers ad nauseam does not a philosophical conundrum make.
Failing that, what about the larger-than-life “hook” of the premise, its characters? Johan's persuasiveness, Tenma's bleeding heart of gold, Nina's fractured iron will… These things are hinted as incredible by backstory, but come time to sell them on screen, it's immediately obvious that the writer has no idea what these marvels should look like up close. All we see are tricks, but not the real magic behind them, wholly insufficient for a fictional character study, especially one with people manipulated against each other like clockwork dolls absent elaboration.
The damning point, however, is the ending. None of the characters matured palpably beyond their introductory arc. Even the two central questions underpinning the entire series ( spoiler
) are shamelessly dodged in the exact same fashion as always.
Basically, be warned that if you really, really want to watch this show, try just the first arc or two. If you don't find them satisfying standalone, the rest of the show has absolutely nothing more to offer you.