There are some shows back when I used to do reviews for MyAnimeList that I knew I would never be able to touch because I had such biased opinions about them. A lot of those shows I still feel very strongly about and my enjoyment of them I know for sure are blinding my ability to think about them critically. I’ve always been a firm believer that nothing artistic is perfect because perfection is impossible, but for some things I can’t see the flaws in them because of how much I enjoyed the show and it didn’t feel vary fair for me to go on praising everything I loved about it while not adding any notable flaws to the conversation. Nothing hits all the right notes for every single person, but some shows we personally love more than anything and see as a truly perfect show. This doesn’t even happen for everyone, but for me, it first happened with the show Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica and still to this day I have an undying bias for it.
Some time ago on Twitter I said I would take a day and talk about why I love Madoka Magica so much, and in case anyone is wondering if that is this day or not, it isn’t really. I might throw in some things about why I like it so much to tie that back to the primary point I’m going to try to make here, but overall that “topic” will be explored later on with a more straight forward title like “Why I Love Madoka Magica.” Rather than talk about Madoka Magica, this is a great chance to talk about blindness to flaws through enjoyment.
I know some people that don’t experience this at all. People that don’t believe any show they watch is literally perfect through enjoyment to the point where they are unable to point out flaws. Overall, that’s fine, and probably even better to a degree. On the other hand I also know people who think the opposite, people who get this enjoyment blindness too easily and can’t view anything very critically because art is art and if they liked it, they liked it; nothing else matters. In a way I’d like to see how this effects our community and the perception of our community as a whole from both sides of the argument.
First we’ll start with the people I mentioned first, the people who can view every single thing critically. If I’m being completely honest, part of me envies these people to a degree. As a creator I would love to be able to view every single piece of entertainment I consumed critically and be able to observe the whole thing as flawed at least at some degree. The problem with this “group” of people, is that not all of them (a very small percentage that I’ve witnessed) actually have the mindset of “How could this have been better? Let’s have a discussion about this!” and more of them (again, that I’ve witnessed) seem to have a more unapproachable, seemingly “All anime is shit.” mindset.
Question one: How does this effect our community? Well, having only watched anime for about four years now, I can still somewhat remember how off-putting that made the anime community seem for me. I really loved the medium and all of the shows I watched so far with friends who got me into anime and some online off of what seemed popular, and the people who had a mindset that all anime was flawed was strange as someone just getting into the medium. Here I was getting into something that I thought, in the moment, was the coolest thing ever, watching ten episodes of anime a night on my iPod (keeping in mind I was a high school freshman at the time), and there were people who liked diving in critically just past the gates of entry along with people who seemingly hated everything for no reason. As for how it effects the community, to a degree it makes a part of it seem toxic and if you don’t have at least a very light “I hate everything” mood, with the ability to call any anime shit without any background, you’ll stand out. I know it’s silly, but a part of me gets relieved when someone I just met and started talking to has a more laid back feeling towards talking about anime. Of course, if I take the time to know the people who like looking at everything as flawed more and talk to them more, a mutual respect for one another’s opinions often gets formed and I like that. In a way, the rather large size of this “group” of people makes the atmosphere (for lack of a better word) of our community feel really tense to the point where I don’t even notice it a lot of the time but still get internally afraid to say that I like Shuumatsu no Izetta airing right now because it just feels like one of those shows someone will jump down my throat for enjoying (at least three people have so far as of writing, so my suspicion was confirmed) even just three episodes in.
From the outside, I imagine these types of people make the anime community seem like an exclusive club almost. I can’t say for certain, as I’ve always been on the in crowd and I never really ran into anime fans online before becoming one, but I’ve had other people tell me similar things about the Vocaloid fanbase whenever I talk about things like the Kagerou Project or kemu’s PANDORA VOXX with the one other person in a group chat that understands what I’m talking about. When we talk about everything so critically and like talking about every single part of a story told through songs, it can seem like too much work for someone else to enjoy it. Isn’t anime just Japanese cartoons when you boil it down the the absolute lowest level? Why do I have to dissect every little thing and have to have seen so much anime so I can cross reference and discuss the tiniest parts of everything with other anime fans? Why can’t I just enjoy the shows?
With that said, that then brings us to the complete polar opposite “group” of people, those who are enjoyment blinded by everything they like and refuse to view things critically. I’m going to be completely honest in saying that this mindset drives me crazy. I’ve mentioned in a past editorials that I don’t think anything creative should be exempt from critique just because some level of effort was put into them, and that desire sort of outstretches to the field of we should at least slightly critically view everything creative that we consume. No, I really mean everything. Even if we aren’t experienced in the field at all, we should at least be able to look at something and try to understand why we enjoyed these things even on the smallest level. I watch movies a million times less than even just normal people but I can always tell what I enjoyed about something I watched and have favourite actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith that I know huge movie buffs will see as just someone inexperienced with the medium’s opinions, but at least I have a definitive opinion on the matter. With that said, I also don’t think indulging in the same thought pattern is all bad. At the end of the day aren’t we watching these shows to enjoy them? That question is the reason I never understand the people who pick up almost every single simulcast airing then drop half of them because they were bad. Why even bother if you’re not going to enjoy it? Why watch Glasslip every week if the episodes were boring and confusing? Why watch Mayoiga if you despise it and think it’s a waste of time for anyone else to see? Of course, I’m at fault to a degree, but why in the world would you try watching every single show airing each season when you’re more than likely not going to enjoy every single one?
As far as this makes our community seem from the outside, it without a doubt makes us seem like a group of undying fanboys who will let anyone in so long as they devote their life practices to our lord and savoir Madoka Kaname and in some ways I wouldn’t doubt if it was the most unappealing aspect of our community. This is definitely a minority, but a very outspoken one of “Why can’t we just enjoy everything?” practically everywhere to the point of annoyance in most cases. It’s good to be welcoming and have an idea of trying to enjoy everything, but it fills the outspoken community with people who praise anime as a nearly flawless medium filled with experiences western television could never deliver.
The biggest split I’ve personally witnessed in how people talk about a show that I’ve seen is with the show that has probably been mentioned by myself more than any other show in my posts, Monogatari Series. I have seen both types of people I mentioned today talk about this show often, some people who despise it, some people who look at it deeply and enjoy it deeply, some people who love it so much they can’t see any flaws in it, and some people who refuse to waste their time with picking into why they might have even enjoyed the show in the first place. This show in particular has lead me to giving up on understanding everyone’s opinions about it, because each one I hear is different from the last.
Personally, I like Monogatari a lot. It’s a really good show, albeit far from perfect, that I really enjoy to the point where I have personal rules for myself when it comes to watching it. What’s interesting to me is that I’ve seen so many people who have such wildly different and absolute opinions about the show. There’s too much dialogue, it’s boring, the girls are hot, everyone is sexualised, the story is deep and interesting, the conflict is pointless, my kink in anime is incest, every character has so much time and through put into them, the art style hurts my head, the animation direction is genius, the characters are literally all pointless and toss-able; all of these are statements I’ve heard in relation to this series. To me, it’s interesting for me to personally have witnessed such a strong across the board diversity of absolute opinions regarding the same exact show.
Yet, to a lot of people I see the things I talked about not too long ago about our community. I know a good amount of people who haven’t seen the show yet, but have been exposed to the endless bickering over the show to a large degree and their opinions on whether or not they should start it yet are almost one of two camps: “The show seems too complex to get into this late” or “I’m afraid I’ll dislike it when everyone else loves it so much.” Everyone who I know who wants to watch Monogatari are already at least a little bit into the series and if people haven’t put it on their plan to watch list it’s almost always because of how people talk about it. Monogatari is a niche product within a niche medium and while I like it a lot, it’s so spoken for within the anime community that I feel like in what I’ve said so far almost everyone can attest to seeing at least a little of what I’ve seen too much over the last four years.
So why did I name the editorial this and not something closer to “Outspoken Critical Interpretations of Anime”? Well, because if anyone knows me well enough, they notice how often I publicly use the word “favourite” when I refer to anime. Madoka Magica, while I may be blinded through enjoyment to think so, is perfect to me. It is one of my many favourite anime. selector infected WIXOSS is the show I call my all time favourite, Kotonoha no Niwa is the anime I’d say has my absolute favourite story, Hibike! Euphonium or Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai has my favourite animation of any anime, Madoka Magica: Rebellion Story is my favourite when it comes to soundtrack, Sword Art Online II has my favourite opening song and Fate/Zero has my favourite ending song. The strangest thing is I know in that huge list of shows I just fired off, some people in this community can get a very clear impression of the type of fan I am, what type of anime I like, and amidst those people there are some people who despise some of my choices and others who couldn’t agree more with them. These are all my favourites and just by saying this list, people who have seen as much anime as me, already have thoughts on what my tastes are. What does that say about anime? What does that say about our community?
Anime, in my opinion, suffers from a similar issue that literature suffers from. Overexposure to it without being in the in-crowd can develop a hatred towards it, being forced to experience it over and over can start to develop a hatred for it or kindle a natural adoption, some people just read to enjoy it, some people read to critically interpret everything, and there are some people out there that if you tell them your favourite book they will instantly start judging your tastes in literature. As an author, I see this as a problem, but I don’t know why or even how to begin addressing it. I think storytelling is incredibly important and creativity is something that should never be let go of, yet something about this collective mindset bothers me. I have my favourites, and that somehow defines me on some level, even without hearing my opinions on why they’re my favourite. It’s without a doubt unsettling to me that titles can become more defining than complex opinions and approaches to thought about the medium. It’s my mission for every editorial to get everyone who reads it to think, whether or not I make a point. This, even though I hardly made any progression towards a point whatsoever, is definitely at least worth thinking about.
Well this post ended up more serious than I initially intended. Regardless, thank you for sticking to the end! I’m curious to see what types of comments I get for this post because this is genuinely a very open ended question and I’d love to see the opinions of readers, whether or not you’re a part of my usual audience. Tomorrow is the official two year anniversary for me on Anime Corps so expect a sappy anniversary post detailing my life story. As always, if you want to see what I’m up to when I’m not doing my part for this blog, why not follow me on Twitter? I’ll see you all tomorrow for one last post from me this week.
The featured image for this post was drawn by pixiv artist あまおと.