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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Digibro: Gay and Dead – Album Review

(This is a critique of Digibro’s music not of the man himself)

It’s so odd seeing an artist you like stray out of their chosen craft to pursue other ventures. Usually it’s an absolute disaster, for every 8 Mile there’s about 100 bad movies starring musicians (most of them probably star Madonna).

Digibro is a particularly interesting one as he is a critic of art and as such you would expect any art he was to create to at the very least be self aware. It’s not.

It’s odd, for as much as I am entertained by most of Digi’s output, including those that stray from just Anime analysis, I have never been grabbed by his music. His style just doesn’t appeal to me.

I love Hip-Hop, more specifically lyrical Hip-Hop and that seems to be at least partially what Digi is going for. I don’t think I have the knowledge base or taste range to criticize music in general but Hip-Hop is my zone so OK with commenting on this album.

Let’s cut to the chase, the album is not very good.

Right from begining with the opener “Broken Brilliance” the album sets an unappealing tone it can never recover from. The instrumental here is not great, the instruments feel way too synthetic and Digi is nearly drowned out in the mix at parts. Both of those things being prevalent issues throughout the album’s 40 minute runtime. Mixing aside most of the beats are just not good and some are even wholly unpleasant to listen to.

Delivery

Another problem on this track that plagues the album is Digi’s delivery. It’s dreadful. He tries to bend words to make them rhyme but it ends up coming off incredibly forced (attempting to rhyme “8 A.M” and “Humans in this case). He has neither the accent or technical skill to do something like this. It’s something that Eminem does often, if you look at his songs on paper a lot of words that rhyme in the song don’t rhyme in reality, it’s called a slant rhyme. Digi is not very good at inflecting his words in such a way that they sound natural when rhyming artificially with others.

Then there’s his voices. When rapping on this project Digi’s voice is not consistent. He changes it between songs and has many occasions where he will attempt to portray another character by imitating a voice (poorly). He needs to stick to his regular voice when rapping, the delivery on some previous projects of his is not half bad. He is outshined immensely delivery wise by Endless Jess whenever he appears as a feature on this album. Plan B’s “Raking The Dead” is a fantastic example of how to do this right, in one verse he raps as a cop, a suspect and a narrator, going back and forth between them whilst keeping the voices distinct.

 

On the song “Paradise” with it’s tropical beat that seems like it may have come straight from Bikini Bottom, his delivery is neither laid back enough to match the beat nor aggressive enough to be juxtaposing against it. It’s just left hanging somewhere in the middle, his delivery often doesn’t mesh with his instrumentals intensity wise.

His multi tracking is almost never used well and it makes the song “Body Rolls” an incomprehensible mess. He seems to do this intentionally but it really makes the song unlistenable.

He’s at his best when he’s just concentrating on sticking a flow and not anything else like on “Freak Power!” one of the two tolerable tracks on this album. Without worrying about voice effects or trying to sound experimental the focus is solely on one of his better skills.

Lyrical Content

But what does delivery even matter without good lyrics?

Now I’m a but obsessive over lyrical skill. I pour over rhyme schemes endlessly and spend a lot of my time trying to make clever rhymes just for the fun of it. Digi’s rhymes are at best basic and at worst non existent.

He will often do this thing where he switches his rhyme about a line too early. Typically a skilled artist will use in rhyme to smooth the transition and failing that they’ll switch from rhyme A to rhyme B after an even number of rhyming lines are complete is complete. Digi will often switch his rhyme on the the 4th line, which can be used for emphasis when done right but being that he doesn’t seem to be saying anything of particular importance when he does this it just comes off as sloppy and jarring.

As for what he’s actually saying there isn’t much there either, I couldn’t find any particularly clever lines on my couple listens through only being caught by the seemingly stupid ones. “I’m as dead as a doorknob” is not a particularly poignant statement, most inanimate objects are pretty equally dead. On the song “Quarter” he will rhyme fuck up with itself which is a rap nerd sin unless it’s done with some clever switch in meaning between the 2 lines. On “Buttfuckers Anthem” he says “I’ll stuff your muff” which if I’m not mistaken is the wrong slang word for that title but hey I’m just nitpicking.

One constant throughout the album is the theme of sex. Look, Digi simply cannot pull off what he’s going for her. Hearing him rap constantly about sex makes him sound like an unironic Filthy Frank. I’m not sure how tongue in cheek it’s meant to be but it comes off as as Digi trying to sound cool. He can’t. “Fat and Dangerous” is a prime example of this. Digi is not innately suave enough to pull that sort of thing off, he’s not Big Pun.

 

I don’t know if he lacks self awareness about the topic or is willfully ignorant but he should take not that rappers like Pun and Biggie usually had an air of a player about them because of who they were and in spite of their physical appearance. There was a point on the song “Gayer than God” when I thought he was being insightful about this as he rapped about how he didn’t have much of a sex life but then my hopes were dashed when he chalked it up to apathy. He says earlier on that he’s cringe by design. Cringe and sex don’t go together unironically. If he wants to make songs about sex (and he clearly does) than do it like Lil Dicky does, funny and truthfully.

Finally I have to bring this up. He raps the word nigger. Now I know people have differing opinions on the appropriateness of the word’s usage but a white guy should never use it in the context of Hip-Hop.

I’m Irish, the word has never really been an issue in any community I’ve ever been apart of in real life. With the advent of Hip-Hop it is used often in an ironic sense around and by me. I personally don’t think it should be considered offensive under certain contexts regardless of who’s using it. But you’ve got to be respectful to the art form you’re using it in. As a white guy, saying nigger in a Hip-Hop song is disrespectful. Eminem has talked about this before when a tape of him saying the word leaked. He has black friends so he has obviously used it before but would never use it in a song because he respects his craft. Hip-Hop is a black artform first and foremost using the word in it, ironically or otherwise, is disrespectful to the artform. Just think about it, if I were to make a 9/11 joke right now, I think most people would be OK with it or at least wouldn’t be too offended. But if I were to make one outside the Freedom Tower in New York? I’d be killed. You have to be aware of these things, ignorance does not fly in cases like these.

Themes And Concepts

I’ve made it clear I did not care for most of the tracks on an individual level. So what about the album as a whole?

Even though the tracks seem to fit together sonically I found it hard to pinpoint a general theme. I guess there are nihilistic undertones throughout but they’re never tackled with any nuance. He just sort of lays out the fact that he’s somewhat nihilistic and ponders existentialism often and just leaves them there. It’s the equivalent of just screaming “We’re all gonna die and it doesn’t ultimately matter” for 40 odd minuets. Why can’t he expand on these topics? There’s only one way to convincingly rap as a nihilist, it’s to not rap as a nihilist. Eminem does this very effectively on his first album “The Slim Shady LP” letting us know of our impending mortality and then rapping about literally anything else because he doesn’t care, because he takes life as a joke. He raps about doing drugs and murder as a form of escapism and then juxtaposes it with the occasional depiction of grim reality on songs like “Rock Bottom”.

As for existentialism it’s again not delved into any further than surface level insight. The man’s what, 27? Surely you have something to say about these topics that extends past what a Wikipedia entry could provide. I don’t think you have to try and convince us your ideology is correct but try and make us understand why you believe it if you’re going to bring it up so often. For such a critical thinker his music does not seem to go very deep a lot of the time. Sure he’s bringing up complex ideas but if he’s not doing anything with them what’s the point. Ideological rappers such as Kendrick Lamar are so great because they take complex ideas and tell them through the use of metaphor amongst other techniques. Kendrick’s message gets across because he doesn’t shove it down your throat, it’s there for those who seek it, his style emulating his faith in god. I don’t agree with his religious sentiments but the way he tells it is so clever that I’m intrigued regardless.

Ultimately this half assed attempt at thematic throughlines and insight leads to a very boring album.

Final Thoughts

One of the worst things an album can be is boring. I have absolutely no desire to listen to this again. It’s not good enough to keep me coming back for more nor is it bad enough to stick out in my mind. I had to constantly reference my notes and relisten to tracks to remember which songs were which.

It’s not even very interesting as an insight into Digibro, it didn’t seem to offer too much in that regard. Even artists worst albums can have merit when they provide insight into the artist themselves.

It fails as a rap album lyrically, sonically and delivery wise. There’s very little here to like.

Final Score: 2/10

Thanks for reading,

Psychime

 

Attempting To Define “Psychological” Anime

If you go onto the “Anime Search” function of MAL you’ll be presented with a list of genres to choose from, with the purpose of narrowing down your search. Most of these are straightforward like “Drama” or “Action” one should know exactly what they’ll get from shows with these tags. Some are a bit more loosely defined, especially the Anime specific ones like “Seinen” or “Shonen”. These tags tend to describe the target demographics (Shonen means boy, for instance) and as such one can expect certain things from that.

Look across the list though and there’s one tag that stands out. Psychological. The tag stands out to me for a reason. What the fuck does it mean? In this context specifically, what does Psychological refer to?

The definition of Psychological is as follows: of, affecting, or arising in the mind; related to the mental and emotional state of a person.

How would one apply this to a show? It’d be a very difficult thing to do. Take it too broadly and you could use it to define every show that attempts to make you think (which is basically every show). Going too narrow though and it’d be a very subjective tagging, being only for shows that make you question your fundamental beliefs, which of course would differ from person to person. The real problem though is the lack of a middle ground.

Let’s use comedy as an example. Not every show with a joke is a comedy but it is not a tagging one ascribes to specifically to things they found funny. There are such things as bad comedies. We strike a middle ground here, shows with a distinct emphasis on making you laugh are comedies, whether or not they succeed at doing so. There’s a reason notoriously bad films like “The Room” are not classified as comedies, because all the humor comes from it’s ineptness at being a drama.

So where do we find this middle ground with Psychological? Where does one draw the line for how much a show has to affect your mind to be classified as Psychological? The more casual definition of a Psychological show would be “a show that gets you thinking” but that is of course way too broad.

I ruminated on this for a while to attempt to come up with a definition. The reason being that when I look at MAL’s “Psychological” line up, I strongly disagree with the classification of many shows with that tag. But I didn’t exactly know why.

Here’s the 10 most popular shows with that tag followed by whether or not I consider them worthy of such a tagging:

  • Death Note (Yes)
  • Mirai Nikki (No)
  • Tokyo Ghoul (Mostly No)
  • Elfen Lied (Yet to watch)
  • Psycho-Pass (Yes)
  • Madoka (Yes)
  • Evangelion (Yes)
  • Kisejuu (No)
  • Erased (No)
  • Re:Zero (No)

Basically 4/9. What is it that separates those shows though? What unifying feature do they have that the others lack?

Ambiguity.

The conclusion that I’ve come to is that a Psychological show is not one that only makes you think about crucial moral issues but offers no one definitive answer to the questions posed.

I’ve talked about utilitarianism in Madoka and how no one answer is presented to the audience. Psycho-Pass is a show I constantly praise for it’s use of multiple viewpoints on any given issue. Death Note asks the question of whether or not we should kill for good and presents this as neither right or wrong, you could conceivably side with or against Light (at least at the start). Eva, from what I have seen of it, presents multiple different ways of dealing with depression through metaphor.

The other shows lack this unifying lack of a concrete stance. In Erased it’s obviously a good thing that the girl was saved. Re:Zero is much more of a character study of Subaru than anything else. The idea of Mirai Nikki having any consistent thematic purpose is nearly laughable unless of course the question being posed is whether or not it’s OK to have a Yandere girlfriend (The answer should be a universal no).

I hesitate to outright say Tokyo Ghoul isn’t, it has hints of open ended questions about it in regards to what makes one human, but they are so often overshadowed other elements that I feel that the show isn’t Psychological.

To me a Psychological Anime is one that presents the audience with moral questions and lets them decide for themselves what the answer is.

 

This one’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve always had a general sense of what a Psychological show was but was never able to pinpoint exactly what made one Psychological until I really thought about it.

The definition I gave is not definitive, I’m very open to other interpretations, I just feel that the current definition (if there even is one) is way too ill defined to be functional. Anyway let me know what you think below.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime.

Why Visual Novels Don’t Tend To Make For Good Anime

Visual Novels are a very interesting form of media to me. Why would anyone make one? It’s not as easy as making a light novel from a man power standpoint but at the same time it doesn’t allow for the visual experience a full anime would. It seems to exist halfway between the two.

So in my mind Visual Novels are almost always made because the story they tell can only be done so through the medium. I think this is the general reason anime adaptations of VN’s tend not to be very good. There are exceptions of course but even most of them come with asterisks. The Fate franchise, even when some installments are praised, is said to pale in comparison to it’s source, Clannad really only becomes good in After Story.

Let’s take a look at why VNs don’t translate well to the small screen.

 

Length

This is the most obvious reason one could give but I’ll mention it anyway. A 12 episode anime series gives a total of about 4 hours of content, this is paltry compared to the 30-50 hours a lot of Visual Novels can take up. There’s only so much that you can convey visually to shorten that time and as such many adaptations can feel rushed or might be missing crucial info that drags the series down.

A particular instance of this would be in The Fruit of Grisaia. *slight spoilers* In the anime version Amane’s backstory is told in three episodes. This might seem like a lot but the story is about her and her classmates starving to death in a ravine over the course of 2 weeks, every day told in painstaking detail. It’s so long that it could’ve been a 1 cour series unto itself. It should have been one in fact. This part of the story works because of the long and detailed descriptions building up the sense of dread. Even though the show took far more time with it than I thought they would, it still felt far less impactful than it did in the full novel.

This extends to the medium in general, many stories don’t have that same impact when they are stripped of the extra detail they possessed and no amount of visual storytelling can make up for that.

Censorship

This really applies to a certain type of visual novel, the “dating sim”. Really any game where the goal is to meet a cast of girls (or guys) and to choose to be with one of them. This usually ends with sex although not always. Clannad is a good example of one of these games that has no sex, I think it’s part of the reason why After Story translated so well. You see, when you take out the sexual aspect of ones relationships with these people, you fundamentally change them. By taking away the sexual aspects of a story you change how it’s characters are viewed and in cases like these, where sex is a major (if not the only) plot element it can lead to very bland and uninteresting anime.

These games stories are about the relationships between characters, take away part of those characters and you may be left with almost nothing.

The Main Character

This one can be a difficult one to overcome. In most VN’s the main character is not given too much of a personality and almost never are they given a described or visible appearance. This is so the player can project easily onto that character.

When translating to anime however not having a visible main character is not really an option. You have to bring that character to life in a way they may not have been meant to before. You could leave them as a blank slate but that wouldn’t make for very good TV.

This does leave most VN protagonists as very boring when they are adapted into anime.

Focus And Choice

Visual Novels’ big distinction from regular old novels are the fact that you can influence the events of it. This of course makes you really feel like you’re the protagonist of said story but also presents two major problems when one tries to adapt them.

Firstly, you have to try and fit all of the branching story paths into one in most cases. This again fundamentally changes the story and trying to fit differing paths into one can leave a confusing mess. Typically one can see this in harem adaptations. The main guy has to have moments with all of the girls on offer because people want to see their favorite characters from the game come to life. Obviously however having this guy go out with 7 odd girls simultaneously would make little sense, a problem which is often ignored. School Days has parodied this in the past but the real problem it presents in my mind is the lack of focus that come with it.

I talked before about Amane’s route being too short in the anime and this is partly because the show has to fit another 4 stories into the run time. By trying to fit so many stories together, you can end up robbing them of what made them work in the first place.

The other problem this brings up of course is the absence of choice. VN’s are hard to gauge when attempting to analyze them as you are in effect getting multiple different stories. A game I might love because I chose one route might be despised by someone else because they chose a different route. Combining all the routes dilutes the quality of it’s best one by default.

Just think about it, a writer isn’t going to write stories that are equally good all of the time. Some may be good, others may be decent and some may even be alright awful. Think about it this way, take the Animeography of Urobuchi Gen. Let’s pretend his works are routes in a visual novel.

If you choose the first route you watch Psycho-Pass, the 2nd you watch Madoka and the third you watch Aldanoah Zero. The first 2 are well regarded but would appeal differently to different people and the 3rd was not so well received. Any given person would have a 33% chance of experiencing a bad story.

This is why Clannad After story works so well. The story focuses on just one love interest, Nagisa, and as such we get the focus required to fully flesh out the story. When adapting shows can dilute quality when mixing routes and lose focus on each individual story in the process.

Many Of The Good Ones Will Never Get Adapted

This is the most disappointing one to me. The above points are all challenges faced by any VN lucky enough to get adapted many VN’s will never get an anime adaption, even if they deserve it.

Most of the popular dating sims will get an adaptation but they almost never have fantastic stories to begin with. The Steins Gates’ of the world can get an adaptation because they are not too offensive.

But there are a whole plethora of fantastic stories out there that will never get adapted because the content would not be deemed suitable for a wide audience. Sharin no Kuni is a story about a dystopian society that will never get an anime because it’s protagonist is can be a pretty shitty person. Euphoria is a game that few people would have the stomach for and will never get an adaptation because it’s sexual content is far too grotesque. Even though it’s narrative is actually quite interesting, the sexual content is so intrinsically tied to the narrative that it could never be made into a TV broadcast anime. We don’t get many good VN adaptations because most of the good ones aren’t suitable for adapting.

This of course brings me back to my original point, the reason VN’s ultimately don’t translate is because the stories told in them only really work as a VN. Content that is too “offensive” or is built upon the choice mechanic. There is a reason they were written as a visual novel and not something else.

It’s a shame to see that VN’s aren’t receiving much attention or many adaptations as of late as there are some great stories out there in VN form. Hopefully one day they can reach a wider audience some way but until then we are left with a lot more misses than hits when it comes to Anime adaptations of VNs.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime

 

 

The Entertainer Blogger Award

Thanks to Keiko for nominating me for this award. As much as I love talking about anime I love talking about myself even more. So thank you for giving me a chance to stroke my ego.

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Add these rules to your post.
  • Answer all the questions below.
  • Display the award picture in your post.
  • Nominate 12 other bloggers who are funny, inspiring and most important of all entertaining!

The Questions:

1. Why did you start your blog?

I started it because I want to be a writer. Let me explain, my first step towards this was to analyze TV shows and other works of media so I could discern what I liked about them and try to take that on board for my own work. After a while I had some analyses just lying about that felt like they were going to waste, so I decided to share them on the blog (that’s why I had nearly a post a day for the first week or 2 of the blog).

2. What is your favorite book?

If this means an actual book then my choices are pretty limited. I don’t read very often. For non-fiction Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting has been very uselful and the works of Friedrich Nietzsche are pretty interesting. As for fiction….I’m going to cheat, Uzumaki by Junji Ito. I know it’s a manga but it’s one of the only pieces of horror based media to really get under my skin and as such is one of the few “books” to impact me.

3. What do you hate the most?

Authority. I have always hated being told what to do, I’d very much prefer to do things my way.

If I wanted to be edgy I could’ve said religion but that would require a much more complex and nuanced answer than I feel is appropriate here. It’s not that clear cut and probably ultimately stems from my distaste for authority.

4. What is your favorite food?

Pizza. All dat pizza. Bacon, pepporoni, chicken and chilli flakes. The ony way a pizza should be made. Fuckin yum.

5. What is your favorite pastime?

Hmmmm. Watching anime is obviously up there but probably isn’t number 1. The one I do most is listen to music but my favorite is probably playing football. Love the sport to bits, can’t get enough of it. The real football too, not any of that hand egg shit.

The Nominees:

A lot of the people I would’ve nominated were given that honor by Keiko so I’m going to leave this blank. I don’t follow too many blogs anyway so I’m not sure I’d have 12 to choose from excluding them.

Anime And Visual Novels As Enablers Of Escapism (And How They Have Affected My Life)

(This one got a bit personal, I hope you’ll read regardless)

I’ll be real for a second. I have used Anime increasingly as a way to replace social interaction. I personally probably have a slightly different reason as to why than most but that doesn’t change the fact that I do it. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

This is a complex issue for me so I’d like to try and get my thoughts about it down on “paper”. At the same time I want to show how easily one could fall into this escapist trap and, depending on ones reasons for doing so, how that could be extremely harmful.

How It Relates To Me Personally

So why would I actually want indulge my escapist tendencies like this? Well that’s very much to do with personal philosophy. My Mother’s side of the family has always been a bit anti-social to begin with so that’s definitely part of it. But I personally have long seen mass social interaction, and romantic endeavors in particular, as a waste of my time.

The way I was raised, in a largely atheist family with a mother who encouraged a bit of narcissism as a way to prevent me having her self-confidence issues, has left me with a very one track mind. I want to make art. I want to be famous. I have to be famous for making art.

So one might be able to see why I value my time so much. But unfortunately I am only human. Such is the hypocritical nature of my own feelings, sometimes I absolutely feel like I have to have some social interaction. Like going out and trying to find a girl might make me happy. Based on past experiences I know how fleeting these feelings are and if I were to actually find someone I’m interested in they could derail my life. I am a very single minded person. If I find a girl I like they will comprise most of my thoughts.

So instead of actually indulging these potentially destructive impulses, I’ll throw on a harem show or if those feelings are incredibly persistent I’ll play through a visual novel. Why would I bother getting into such a long and potentially complicated relationship (or at least attempted relationship) when I could do one of these two things? The girls are all beautiful, they all love me and I can be fairly sure that my ultimate goal of getting with them is a sure thing. And if it’s not I can just try again. Most importantly though I’ll only ever sink maybe 10-15 hours most into a visual novel and 4 hours into a harem series. It sates my needs and doesn’t take too long.

Until recently I was very content with this, especially considering I do keep in regular contact with a few close friends. So why am I concerned about it now?

The Return Of Plan B

No not my plan b but the artist of the same name. And also not the Spanish language duo called plan b either. I’m sure most of my audience save for one or two will have heard of this guy but Plan B is a British rapper/soul singer and he’s one of my favorite artists of all time. When I got into his music back in 2014 he hadn’t put out an album in 2 years. This is pretty normal for any artist so I waited patiently for an album announcement. It did not come. 3 long years I waited. I knew the possibility was slim. He’d had a kid and suggested in an interview he was going to walk away from music to focus on being a father.

Then this past month he came back. After 5 years of almost total media silence, he returned with a new single and an enlightening interview with the BBC. He explained his absence in this interview saying that by the time he released his 3rd studio album in 2012 he felt that he had been a celebrity for so long that he hadn’t had a chance to live. He said he didn’t feel comfortable writing music about life when he was so out of touch with it. He wanted to go away get some life experience and then come back with music he felt was up to his standards. And his new single is amazing.

So this is what got me thinking about this topic. By simulating life in this manner do I risk any art I ever create of being too out of touch with reality to be relateable? Ideologically I’m already in a minority so alienating myself further may be too much. Is this even a problem? I don’t know. This is a serious question I don’t have an answer to yet.

The problem is the hypocrisy of my mindset. I don’t care for many people’s opinions but I need those people to like what I do to achieve my goal.

So for me it’s a question but for others…

This Could Be A Real Problem

So my problem is not that I can’t engage in social interactions it’s a general disinterest. But what about people who use these same products to simulate social interaction that they really want? People that really want to make friends but just don’t know how. These products could be like a drug to them. It gives them a simulated feeling of socializing but it doesn’t help them gain social skills because these games are usually fairly far from reality (that’s sort of the point).

It’s a viscous cycle, the more these people play these games the harder socializing becomes relative to the easy interactions of a pre-scripted game world. In a world where social interaction is already being warped by the internet games and anime like those I’ve described enable a potentially awful lifestyle for certain people.

I don’t think I’m even really the right person to comment on this but I do think it’s a serious question, not even just in Japan anymore as Japanese media has become so popular out west.

Anyway I think that’s the gist of it. Let me know what you think. Should I be worried for myself? Is this a problem? Why did kids love the taste of cinnamon toast crunch?

If you have a comment or a question about anything here please leave it down below.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime.

 

What’s With The Obsession With “Character Development”? (Rant)

There are a lot of things critics will tend to point to as integral facets of making a good story. Three act structure, a resolute ending, believable characters etc. The list of these things is fairly long and isn’t universally applicable.

But one that gets brought up constantly is the idea of character development. Critics will complain often when there isn’t enough of it insisting that characters must grow and change over the course of a series. Okay, but why?

Before even answering that question you must know that “character development” can be an ill-defined and oft misused term (I’ve probably done so myself). I find it tends to be used to mean how a character grows and changes whereas it was originally meant to be more all encompassing meaning how the audience develops a connection to a character when the audience fills them with depth and personality. Not specifically change even though that can be part of it. I’ll be talking about the common usage here.

You want believable characters and also want them to change drastically, I’m sorry but most of the time those two things are mutually exclusive. In the real world people don’t tend to change very much in adulthood but in shows it’s taken as a given.

The only time I think that a majority people change drastically is in adolescence more specifically between the ages of 13 and 16. This is part of why many slice of life shows are set in high school the characters are so malleable because in reality their personalities are not fully formed. It’s this sweet spot of an age where ones personality is solid enough to make for a somewhat consistent and interesting character but still has room enough to change in significant ways.

So when shows with Adult characters get this criticism thrown their way I never quite understand it. Is it not interesting and consistent characters that grab our attention? Part of what makes characters so interesting to me is that I can imagine what they would do in any given situation because they are of course consistent

Then of course there’s the train of thought that characters must specifically “grow” and become better. This is even more ludicrous to me. In adulthood significant change tends to come from life shattering events and the change is rarely ever a good one. In Psycho-Pass for example Kogami becomes a much more cynical and twisted person after the death of his enforcer and friend Sasayama under gruesome circumstances. I get change like this it makes sense to me. And when a similar thing happens to Akane she just becomes even more resolute in her personality not letting it change her for the worse. What I wouldn’t get is a character going through that and coming out a “better” person.

I also feel that sometimes people get change confused with gradual relation. Let’s take Uraraka from My Hero Academia. In one episode we find out that the reason that she wants to become a hero is to make enough money to support her family. Uraraka of course has not changed, this has been her motivation from the start but even so I’ve seen this praised as growth of her character.

At the end of the day this whole idea is a confusing mess. The use of the term has been skewed in a way that makes it confusing when used analytically. And specifically the idea that a character growing or changing is needed for a show to be good or is somehow more nuanced when it’s included does not sit well with me. If your best friend became a different sort of person tomorrow would you still be friends with them? Who know your relationship would certainly change though. You’re friends with them because you like who they are so if who they are changes so does your relationship.

I don’t even know at this point, ranting takes it out of me.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime