Criticism and Analysis As A Part Of The Western Anime Fandom (rant)

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,

Psychime

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7 Comments

  1. Well said, friend. As much as I dote on Hajime no Ippo, I also have a ton of criticism about it as well. There were plenty of times where it went left wjhen it should’ve gone right, and I’ve called it out on that as well.

    It’s ok to listen to critics, but don’t just take their word for it like it’s gospel. Let’s discuss the anime and see why exactly we differ on things. We can’t solve a problem if you never talk about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One thing to keep in mind is most people simply don’t care about exploring why the like or dislike something, or even if they do care on a ‘being frustrated about not being able to explain what’s so good/bad about the stuff they (dis)like’, may still not feel inclined to put the work into developing the skills to discover and articulate their reasons for such things.

    Though that is not to discredit any who are capable and just don’t show it often enough, or anyone who is trying and struggling to find the right words, but keeps falling short of being understood or understanding it themselves. I for one, have for the longest time had this problem in my younger years, and had the most terrible time trying to make others understand my perspective on the matter, but despite possessing the vocabulary, my ability to argue was abysmal. I would get easily wound up by the emotions of the disagreement and lose focus of what I was trying to say.

    It is only through trying through reading, hearing, and imitating the expression of others was I able to develop one of my own and that is still an ongoing process. It is work to figure out things, even if it gets easier for some, there are still plenty of hurdles and challenges in each step as you learn and grow, and even after you feel you have mastered such skills. For clarity is the ultimate goal. To be able to express oneself utterly without confusion is an endeavour to even the best of us, and often a vital source of improvement – to hone one’s writing to be made more concise, accessible, and understood.

    However in regards to those of large followings, as you mentioned, the concern of accumulating a loyal fanbase who only nods in agreement is understandable, though I do feel with the rise of more bloggers and youtubers in the anime community, of the analytical variety, there is too more room for discussion and disagreement among these followings. At least I’d like to think so. Digibro may have paved the way for a many of today’s anitubers in this respect, but this is a good thing as it has opened up so many different perspectives, some of which are almost entirely opposed to Digibro and disagree with him on many of his views, and others who generally tend to side with him on things (though I do hope this isn’t out of loyalty and creator worship, but more mutual respect). I myself have gone from taking his word for everything to questioning and/or disagreeing with him on things in the span of less than a year.

    It’s great to have so many voices in the anime community to give people varied opinions and sources of information on things relevant to this (cultured) hobby of ours. Balancing our own view with that of others is the healthiest form of discussion–I want to believe anyway.

    Sorry for the rambling. Not sure if my thoughts are in-check here, and I don’t think I said everything I wanted to say, but it is an interesting discussion to have considering the current climate in the anime community. I’d love to hear more thoughts, in this sphere at least, on the matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think there are quite a few anime reviewers and critics who do try to point out the positives and negatives of what they watch, even when they love or hate something, but there are a lot of posts out there that simply tell you something is amazing, perfect, the best, or trash, rubbish and a waste of time and provide little evidence. I think readers need to choose what they read and what they pay attention to but at the end of the day, they make the choice about which content they think is useful to them.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It seems like everyone with a brain hated Alien: Covenant, but I thought it was a decent flick. Not much to do with this post, but I wanted to say it YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I LIKED COVENANT

    Good post.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I think reviews are pretty much based on someone’s opinion and is always very personal. Ofcourse I read reviews for anime and movies, but I do try to keep an open mind when reading them. I have had so many times that a movie ar anime was trashed and I loved it, or the other way around. A great example is Dunkirk. Pretty much every post I ha e read for this movie, seems to think it’s one of the best warmovies ever made. I had a completely different opinion. Whatever the case, a review is a personal experience based on someone’s tastes. And they just don’t have to be the same taste as yours. With a medium as diverse as anime, there are so many choices you can make in what you want to watch, so it’s also very hard to choose. Still, I always form my own opinion, but I do sometimes let myself be guided by recommendations. Sometimes that leads to discovering hidden gems. Loved this post by the way, a great and well written piece 😊

    Like

  6. Makes sense to me.

    Good reviews point out positives and negatives. Doesn’t matter if you are biased towards one or the other, so long as you acknowledge it and convey this to your readership. It’s persuasive writing 101.

    Like

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