Criticism, Critics, and Me
September 6, 2012 6 Comments
Hello friends, companions, and acquaintances. I’d like to tell you a story so please… have a seat.
It is the summer of 2009 and I had just finished both seasons of Code Geass. I was amazed, delighted how interesting and engaging the show was. But I needed more of this kind of entertainment. So I watched Gurren Lagann, Ouran High School Host Club, Air, Special A, Toradora, Kamen no Maid Guy, and so on. I marathoned anime after anime. It was a pretty fucking amazing time for me. Anime was my drug and I couldn’t get enough of it. I never bothered to check out or browse anime forums or other communities before then. Fast forward to early 2010. I began talking about anime to some of the people I knew on a site known as justin tv. It began mostly with recommendations and suggestions for anime that we thought the other would like, but never getting into thick conversations about the subject. The person I did talk to the most however, was Ven. I recommended him a show called Kamisama Kozoku, and he recommended me Kamen no Maid Guy. We both enjoyed them and slowly we began talking more and more about other anime. And thus began months of skype calls to talk about anime. And then King came along who’d be our manga guy. These were happier times. Simpler times.
Fast forward to August of 2010, when this podcast was born. It seemed like a nice idea to record our thoughts and feelings on the anime we watched with other fans and gain a new perspective on anime! But that wasn’t the case. I’ve had guests on the show with practically polar opposite opinions on just about every anime that we’ve both watched. I couldn’t understand it! That’s not to say that they were terrible people or that they had terrible tastes. I’m in no position to judge. While I attempted to understand their feelings on some shows, I still couldn’t see the appeal to them. Then they would flip out and get into these meaningless arguments with me. I thought I’d get a different perspective, not a rant on why I’m wrong. What the hell am I suppose to say? That I enjoyed them as much as they did? So what if I didn’t enjoy Death Note or Haruhi as much as the next guy? Then began a long string of miserable days of attempting to communicate with a bunch of obnoxious people so high strung on their favorite shit. There’s nothing I missed, contrary to what they commonly try to explain as if there’s some hidden meaning behind their shows that’ll somehow make me want to enjoy it more. FLCL is often criticized for being an incredibly random show where random silly things happen like robots jumping out of the foreheads of children for no apparent reason. However, some interpret the show as a metaphor for growing up which somehow enhanced their experience while watching it. But it’s just that. An interpretation. It is neither right nor wrong. FLCL can be interpreted in many ways as well as enjoyed in many ways. Some people enjoy random stuff just for the sake of being random and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Thing is, anime fans care too much. They care too much about what other people think about their favorite shows. A Kotaku writer, Mark Serrels, wrote an article on why people care so much about their favorite shit and they take so much offense to the negativity of the things they enjoy. It was pretty spot on. We, as anime watchers, allow anime to define a part of us. So whenever someone takes offense at a review or blog post about an anime they enjoyed being harshly criticized, they can’t help but be a little hurt. A single sentence like, “Who would like this dumb anime with poorly constructed storytelling, garbage characters, and piss-poor dialogue?” stings straight to the heart. It can easily be taken as “You have shit tastes and you have no standards”. And it’s absurd and just crazy! I don’t involve people who like/dislike the anime I’m reviewing in my thought train. What they say don’t matter to me. See all those links to other blogs on the right hand sidebar? Don’t care about em. I checked them out once, saw many things I disagreed with and never looked back. Probably only reason that they’re there is that they have our blog linked on their site, but I really couldn’t give a flying fuck either way. I find less and less reason to try and communicate with all those other people. I’ve noticed that they’re usually stubborn in their opinions. Conversations that start with “Why do you enjoy this anime?” never actually end with “Oh! Now I see why you enjoy this anime.” Some anime critics like to define their opinion as law, which somehow gives them an audience, derived from all the negativity they share with the shows they detest.
Well-recognized in the video gaming community video game critic, Yahtzee Crenshaw, derives pleasure from blatantly bashing video games with witty words and fast paced speech. But his reviews can’t actually be called reviews. No attention is actually given to the different elements of a game like music or presentation. Rather his whole setup is a comedic act, and he probably acknowledges it as so. It’s sorta what criticism has become nowadays: a comedic act to see how many harsh words can be thrown at a shitty series, but not actually attempting to analyze it. This is part of what critics, be it from video games to movies to anime, miss most of the time. There’s generally at the very least one thing positive to say about the product, but they choose not to acknowledge it. No, people much rather enjoy a good whiplash on terrible shows.
When a certain review of Boku no Pico had popped up on youtube, the OVA series suddenly became a little bit popular because people were so damn curious to see what the hell it was. There’s reaction videos of it throughout youtube, just people giggling at it. We at AAP, even did a reaction show, just so we could laugh and be disgusted at little boy penis. But frankly it was just boring. So unless someone is into little boys or shotacon or whatever, you might find actually find entertainment value in it (or handcuffs on your wrists because this shit wouldn’t fly here in the states). In all honesty, it was a pretty big waste of time where a big ol’ gay gathering of dudes (and a girl) watched a shotacon yaoi anime. And yet there’s probably someone somewhere in the whole world who absolutely enjoyed it, but again, I don’t really care. Anime all around is pretty fucked up. There isn’t any measurement of just how fucked up something can be. The gag anime we see nowadays rely on characters inflicting physical abuse on another, or a character abusing the fuck out of an animal. And yet, people laugh their asses off at it. In the real world, this would be considered a serious mental disorder. So you see, we’re all fucked up human beings. Some of us just don’t know it yet.
Sorry if it seems like I’m getting a little side-tracked here, but this goes back to my original train of thought. I’m glad to have co-hosts who generally share the same interests and feelings towards anime. My co-host, Ven, die-hard fan of Evangelion, didn’t necessarily care if I didn’t enjoy Eva as much as him the first time I watched it. Not that I hated or even disliked it, but I just didn’t see the much of the shock value the show had on viewers back when it aired in the mid 90s. All he’s satisfied with is that I had watched it at all. He willingly admits he’s sometimes too head over heels over the damn show, a little too crazy about it than the normal fan. Same goes for King, our other co-host, who willingly admits he’s a fucking hipster when it comes to both anime and manga (He can’t get into popular series based solely on the fact that they’re popular). They both have their share of faults in their personality, but at least they acknowledge them and those are the people that I rather surround myself with.
We might appear as a simple group, but I rather have it no other way. We talk about anime we enjoy, and for the ones we don’t, we just don’t bother talking about them. That’s pretty much what happens when I watch something that’s pretty shitty. I think to myself, “Well that sucked” and then I move on. Period. End of discussion. Because there’s just no point in talking about what an anime fails to do or why it didn’t live up to its potential. I could write lengthy blog posts about the numerous flaws an anime series has, but no one enjoys talking about how terrible it is. Unless it’s popular. Critics love to jump on popular shit like fat kids do on Krispy Kreme donuts, as if they were trying to aggravate the crowd who actually do enjoy the show. They often try to get a rise out of them to say, “Come at me, bro!” and start a long line of arguments as a means of bringing attention to their shitty sites. I’ve rarely ever seen blogs with posts that are simply Here’s-an-anime-I-enjoyed-and-here’s-why-I-liked-it. But rather it’s the usual Here’s-what’s-wrong-with-this-anime, here’s-why-anime A-is-better-than-anime B, Why-is-this-anime-so-popular, etc. There’s just so much negativity on their sites on anime, it’s questionable if they even enjoy the medium at all. It’s been my rule-of-thumb to always talk about the anime or news that I actually care about. I see no need or obligation to writes posts on the hottest shows airing nowadays, or even be a part of those anime blog networks. It’d be nice to have someone to talk about Legend of Black Heaven with, but hey, can’t win em all.
It’s mind boggling the way some anime critics think. They way that they criticize one series for stuff like poor storytelling, or pointless characters, when the stuff they like isn’t so well written themselves. This is just another thing that I will never understand about them. What can be enjoyed anymore? When is it fine to be a dumb silly show when that’s exactly its intention while other ones should be taken seriously? And just why are they compared against each other?! One of the greatest mysteries of this world that I’ll never bother cracking.
The people I hang out with AAP are the best chill and relaxed people I could ask for. We laugh, we joke, and we just enjoy anime as it is. Sure, we even have our own times of criticizing anime, but it’s all in good fun. We’re never in boiling rage over the shows we dislike. If anything, we just don’t like the crazy anime fanbases. But that’s it. Anime’s one of the big things we all love and share a common interest in. It’s what brings us together, and what brought us together in the first place.