You know what I personally love about Anime as a medium? The variety. It seems to me that there are a wide spectrum of shows with massively different messages. I would posit that this is partially due to the heavy amount of adapting when it comes to ANime production. Only one or two people have to work on a Manga or Visual Novel or a Light Novel and as such it’s much easier to keep a singular or maybe dual vision intact in the core of your project. This is unlike cable television where getting a singular vision on any project is a rarity.
Like anything there are advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand artists have less people interfering with their vision and this can lead to great things like Steins;Gate. On the other artists shit ideas can be left unchecked, think the Star Wars prequels as a rarer western example of this.
Along with this wide range of shows comes a wide range of criticism and analysis. This is a natural thing for any artform, people know what they like but often want to know why they like what they like. Those who don’t possess or use analytical skills on what they watch or those who wish to hear another perspective will flock to critics. And usually critics have a big effect on how things are made. If a number of big critics pan a movie like Batman v Superman and praise the Marvel cinematic universe it leads to things like the Suicide Squad reshoots that added in more humorous scenes. Movies and TV are a collaboration between art and business in which almost always the business takes precedence.
So with this power these critics can dictate to a degree what entertainment is like, by proxy the audience dictates the sort of stuff that comes out. Sure not every movie is good but there’s a reason we get 3 marvel movies seemingly every month. It’s because people go to watch them.
But when it comes to Anime there’s a bit of an issue with this, specifically within the western fanbase.
Western Anime critics have almost no influence on Japanese entertainment trends. Studios have to cater to their main demographic which 99% of the time is Japan. So what do critics do in this situation?
At this point their role is not to shape the Anime that come out but to try and shape people’s opinions about anime only. Think SAO and it’s perception before and after DIgibro analysis. It really doesn’t matter what westerners think of the show for the most part, as long as it’s popular in Japan it will continue to be made and make it’s way to us for the foreseeable future.
Digi’s analysis showed what was wrong with the show. It gave people who didn’t like it but didn’t know why a reason and ability to vocalise negative opinions on it. Those that still liked the show now had to defend their stance on it. At a certain point there was nothing anyone could do to change the new split perception of the show, an analysis of the second season was for the most part pointless. It wasn’t going to change people’s opinions about the show all that much nor was it going to impact how the show was made. This isn’t about whether Digi was right or wrong in doing this, I honestly don’t care but it’s more about this mob mentality this can create.
When attacking a studio or show makes little difference the audience turns it’s attention to the critics. Because we can see real results in doing so. People seem to subconsciously try to align their tastes with their favorite anime critics even when their tastes may not fully align. I can attest that I myself have done so in the past. I latched on to Digi because of his ultra positive reception of Psycho-Pass but now I realise I don’t even fully agree with his analysis on the show itself let alone everything else he reviews.
But when you idolise the opinions of others like this any attack on them becomes an attack on you and as such you strike back. I’ve seen countless arguments in comment sections where it is clear neither side has even watched the show they’re arguing about.
Analysis should be about finding both the good and the bad in any given show. I have negative things to say about Psycho-Pass and positive things to say about Eromanga Sensei. It seems however that Anime discourse is at a stage where a show is either amazing, awful or just OK and not much inbetween. It’s less and less an actual discussion about what makes a show good or bad but more so a competition to see who has superior taste, something that’s itself pointless due to the subjectivity of it but I digress. Instead of trying to come to understand why our peers like or hate something that we don’t we just naturally assume they’re wrong.
For ages I thought that those who didn’t like Psycho-Pass just weren’t thinking about it hard enough or were at least seeing something different in it than I. But people can see exactly what I see in something I love and hate it for those exact reasons. It’s hard to come to this conclusion and even now when someone hates on the show my instant reaction is “What is this idiot talking about?” and I have to try and catch myself.
I really don’t care that we criticize critics or that people engage in pointless bickering, you do you. But what I hate is that this sort of stuff comes in between the ACTUAL FUCKING ANALYSIS OF ANIME.
Why are there so few taking a scalpel to numerous Anime and trying to explain why they’re so great? Someone like SuperEyepatchWolf does this fantastically. His content is mostly about trying to get people to watch stuff that impacts him and potentially have it affect them in the same way. When it’s negative it’s usually from a place where he wants to like something but can’t, his videos on Berserk for instance. Of course negative criticism is important but I think that it only works when it’s used in conjunction with positive criticism.
You see critics blatantly ignoring positives in shows they don’t like or glossing over problems in their favorites because their favorites can’t be flawed. Instead of making things so black and white why not talk about why an issue that plagues a show you like and a show don’t destroy one and not bring down the other?
Again I don’t really care what anyone does but in my perfect world anime analysis is, you know, about anime analysis. For every time a critic has pointed me towards a great show I can only imagine how many times I missed out because they couldn’t make a video or blog post about a certain show because of the potential back lash they would get. Once one person says a show is bad it becomes so much harder for someone to say it’s good.
I don’t even really know where I’m going at this stage, this is all just stream of consciousness. I should wrap it up here.
This isn’t meant to be an indictment of anyone but more of a personal observation. I want the fanbase to be about analysing things but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Time will tell what people want from their anime critics.
Thanks for reading,