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Is It Better To Have Discerning Or Liberal Tastes In Anime?

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As fans, should we be selective about the series that we like or should we not bother about things like standards and just enjoy each show as it comes?

If you read around on anime blogs and reviewing websites, you get the impression that Guilty Crown (pictured above) was a really shit anime or something. The critics didn’t have too much good to say about it. And maybe it was a shit anime, although I cannot bring myself to be mad about it since I can no longer remember what actually happened in the story. (Probably not a good sign.)

But I do remember this one plot point, where the main character was told by his douchebag friend that he should rank all his friends by how powerful and useful they are. “It’s not discrimination,” he says. “It’s distinction!”

This has got me thinking about the nature of fandom and how we choose to interpret not just the stories within anime but the level of quality in the medium as a whole. Should we watch anime and compare them to the best of the medium, trying to search for the gems and to sort them out from the trash? In other words, are we entitled to be critics?

The answer to that is, seemingly, “of course”. Being critical is good for us and we can learn a lot from it. It’s also inherently a part of human nature to be concerned with superlatives: we want to sort out in our own minds which anime is the best – or worst, for that matter – and why we believe this to be the case. Methodical minds take this even further and try to rank their experiences and to put numbers on them.

But there are also a couple of objections that you can reasonably have about having this kind of mindset. If you’re so preoccupied with ranking the quality of anime on some kind of scale, don’t you lose some perspective on the nuance of the story? When you’ve dismissed a story as “bad”, is that it? All that time you put into watching that anime you think was bad was just wasted hours, was it?

This brings me to the central question of this post and one that I can’t help but think other fans can relate to. By being discerning about our tastes, what are we doing? Are we enriching our experience of watching anime by knowing to the fullest extent why a particularly enjoyable anime is, in fact, great – or are we closing ourselves off from enjoying the vast majority of anime that is released by dismissing them as trash, courtesy of Sturgeon’s Law?

On the other hand, if your tastes are too liberal and you like the majority of what you see, wouldn’t that mean you lack appreciation for a work that is a true masterpiece?

I’ve grappled with this question many times in my mind and every time I can’t help but think that there is merit to both approaches. I’m going to ignore the status of professional critics and just focus on what it means to be critical as a fan. I’m not talking about haters either. While it’s this thing among butthurt fans to accuse critics of not being a “true fan” of anime when they criticise a significant proportion of anime, especially popular titles, I don’t think that’s a reasonable objection. (I addressed this question obliquely in another post.)

Well said.

Well said.

Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s any real point in arguing what kind of person a “true fan” is because that’s such a nebulous and subjective concept. It’s impossible to compare one person’s level of enjoyment to another’s and it would be presumptuous of me to claim that someone who identifies themselves as a fan likes anime less than I do. I feel the objections mostly arise from clashing tastes and this accusation of not liking anime is a low-hanging insult. Seeing as being critical enriches your perspective of fiction and all, I find it hard to believe that anyone who would consistently watch enough anime to criticise a number of them could not be a fan. That said, being burnt out from watching too much anime in a short time might cause you to feel weary of titles you may have enjoyed under a different circumstance – but that’s another story.

At the same time, when I think about what kind of way I should look at anime in order to get the most personal fulfillment, I find myself vacillating between a lot of different viewpoints. I’m a casual, a shonenfag, an ecchi/moe fanboy, a fujoshi and an elitist all at once – it all depends on the anime I am watching! Needless to say, my tastes are very broad. I definitely lean more towards the “liking everything” approach because I believe in judging anime in terms of what it sets out to achieve. I see no point in criticising something for being “pandering” or lacking ambition – my concern is thus how well does it execute its own premise? This gives me a lot of personal entertainment and I find myself liking (or at least appreciating) a lot of shows others with more discerning tastes dislike, so I do sometimes wonder if others look down on me for having “low” standards or something.

I’m also not sure if I even like this idea of ranking anime against each other. I think it’s perfectly possible to take away messages or to find entertainment even from anime that I find to be less engaging as others, usually by interacting with other fans and having an interesting chat about it. It’s the diversity of opinions that attracts me to the anime fandom and to places of discussion, like blogs and forums. Often, this kind of meta entertainment is more significant to me than the artistic merits of the anime itself. The amount of enjoyment I get from each series balances out in this way, and by the end of a series run, the search for “objective entertainment value” strikes me as futile.

Make no mistake, though: I don’t want everyone to think like me – that would suck. I’m a happy-go-lucky, easily satisfied person. If you were me, you would be going around with your head in the clouds and a goofy grin on your face directed at no one in particular. Sure, you’d all be happy people, but you’d get nothing done at all, except for wanky literature reviews. The world would go to shits!

This is why I appreciate the diversity of opinions that we get in the anime fandom and I suppose when I think about it really hard, the question of whether it’s more fulfilling to have discerning or liberal tastes is moot to begin with. I get a lot of fulfillment out of appreciating other peoples’ tastes, so my guess is that no single approach is superior to the other. I also don’t think we need to constrict ourselves to just the one way of thinking, since being able to enjoy an anime on a number of different levels is what offers the most enrichment of all. You can get a lot more out of just one anime by stretching your thinking a little bit, and often, talking to other people with different opinions is what makes you able to do just that. Interesting, huh?

Enough about me, though, how about you? Would you describe your own tastes as discerning or liberal? Which do you think is better to see, for yourself and in others? Which approach do you think gets you the most out of anime? It’s fascinating to think about because everyone has a different answer and way of looking at things!

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Posted on July 16, 2013, in Editorials and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. In general I guess I’d tend to describe my own anime tastes (or tastes across the board, to be honest) as discerning. I’ve certainly been called an elitist before – seemingly in response to my hatred of overly long, filler-ridden, relatively low quality productions like Naruto or Bleach. I sort of take issue with being called an elitist (for that particular reason) though, because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking what you like. My main problem with a lot of anime fans is that they don’t seem to make a distinction between what’s good and what’s enjoyable. When I watch or review an anime, I try to keep both things in mind, because what I like and what I think is good aren’t necessarily the same thing – I’ll occasionally quite happily watch an anime that I think is terrible, objectively speaking… it’s just that the difference between objective and subjective is something I pretty much always have in mind. I guess if that makes me an elitist then so be it.

  2. I am extremely against that “set out what it intends to do” mentality. Sure Chris Brown probably meant to sound like a total jackass in all his songs, but they’re still unpleasant to listen to (and he’s not a good singer on top of that). And don’t even get me started on Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”.

    And while I agree that the “it’s not your thing” can apply to the execution, it never applies to the concept. I wouldn’t love stuff like Whisper of the Heart or Magic Users Club (and on the flipside, I wouldn’t dislike Rahxephon and Deadman Wonderland) if I had biases against concepts by themselves. Hell, I’ll admit that I like some songs with Chris Brown in them (although aside from “Forever”, the ones I dig like “International Love” are stuff that would be perfect if he wasn’t there).

  3. I like this post because it acknowledges the different methods people approach this subject with. I personally try to not be bothered by the fact everyone has different tastes–I mean, there isn’t much harm in someone calling Anime A the greatest anime of all time even though you found it terrible in every way possible. Discussion about why you hold a certain opinion is always good; I just worry when people get really riled up about it all. (Saber apparently is a good example of this!) For me I hope to be able to see other people’s way of looking at things a little better. What is it people like about Anime B, and what is it exactly that Anime B did so well that appealed to them? Maybe there’s nothing I find interesting about Anime C at all–I might share my opinion when appropriate, but I’d rather not harp on it incessantly and try to rain on the parade of those who do enjoy it. (You can perhaps call this Twilight Haters Syndrome, or perhaps more appropriately SAO Haters Syndrome?)

    As for the various anime out there, I think it is good for people to keep in mind what an anime is actually aiming to achieve in its storyline. You obviously can’t judge a series like Serial Experiments Lain the same way you would examine Acchi Kocchi. And while it’s essentially impossible for the latter series to gain critical acclaim or to be remembered as a ground-breaking series in any way–I personally enjoyed it for what it was. And sometimes you’re in the mood for something simple and innocuous anyways, right? For a more recent example, I rather enjoyed winter’s The Unlimited Hyoubu Kyousuke. It’s truly an anime that doesn’t stand out in any way, save perhaps for its protagonist (to some degree)–but for what it’s worth it was a series that seemed to accomplish precisely what it set out to do, at which point it just becomes a matter of knowing if you’re in the mood for that sort of story. Obviously target audience comes into play for all this as well. At one time I recall reading a variety of Top 10 Anime lists and noticing none of them included anything remotely shoujo. That didn’t mean there aren’t any good shoujo anime, of course–these writers just didn’t care for that particular genre is all. (And they don’t have to!)

    My tastes have certainly shifted over the years, but since I started keeping up with currently-airing seasons I’ve surprised myself from time to time by the shows I end up watching and enjoying. I think the variety of different stories covered in anime is something worth taking advantage of, at least. But that said, I’m still pretty choosy and will drop anime without much hesitation. Probably because there’s such a large number of them available to watch, and I do have other things to do! ;P

  4. When you think about taste, you have to factor in the person’s outlook and situation. Do they have a lot of time on their hands, or do they work long hours and can only squeeze in an hour’s worth of nightly anime at most? Are they really into anime, like collect artbooks and analyze everything about their favorite director? Do they just love Japanese culture and exotic things? Do they just find stretchy pirate antics amusing? Generally, people fall into their taste without much effort, because it’s the most natural for them.

    I also think that you’re conflating quality with enjoyment. One can enjoy bad shows. (Conversely, one can *not* enjoy good shows.) When I realized this after watching the truly bad albeit enjoyable cartoons like Garzey’s Wing or BAOH, I felt like I had reached anime nirvana–no one can mock me anymore, because there’s nothing to mock! If you know that the anime is shit, and love it anyway (without defending it), then no one can make you feel bad about it. I believe that most fans are caught up with their image of taste, which ironically limits their enjoyment of the medium. Because they’re afraid to watch a show other people disapprove of, when it could have become a lifelong favorite.

    If you finished a show in a way in which you felt that your time was not wasted, then you have nothing to be guilty for. What you should be guilty for, is slogging through a show you have no business with. For me, the golden rule in watching anime is “don’t waste your time”. Would you spend your last night on Earth marathoning an anime that makes you physically ill? Didn’t think so.

    Face it, unless you’re a professional reviewer or a student, we watch cartoons for enjoyment. If you wanna watch something, then go for it. When it stops being fun, drop it. If you don’t feel like it, then no one should ever force you to. Even if it’s the most glorious, immortal, golden treasure of anime. I’d rather not think of the good stuff I’m missing out, because there won’t be an end to it.

    As for criticism, it’s something you should do after the episode or show. If you let a running commentary loose in your head while watching, then you’re not letting the work speak to you. Chances are, something’s wrong, and if you’re always trying to nitpick what you’re watching then maybe it isn’t very good in the first place.

    Me, I follow a lot of anime seasonally and finish most of them. I also watch a lot of old shows, that which the modern anime fan wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. But I lean toward the discerning side–after all, my time is limited and I want to do a whole lot of over things, so I don’t try to spread myself thin. But I know a general whole lot of anime and my knowledge has grown from incredibly skewed (mecha and sci-fi) to very well-rounded. I think my approach is very versatile since I can look at shows critically without compromising my enjoyment.

    I’ve said too much, maybe I should write my own post, too.

  5. The silly part about people trying to be objective is that the very first step they have to take in their objective analysis is the subjective choice of quantifiable factors they consider indicative of quality. That’s why we have endless discussions between people who are convinced their arguments are objective and cannot fathom why the other side disagrees.

    But as other commenters mention, even once you choose your factors and use them consistently for the sake of reviews etc. there is no need for that perceived quality to overlap with enjoyment. Loving imperfect things is nothing unusual (I love my family, for example, and like most people they are far from perfect). There is no need to resolve the mind vs heart conflict, because there is no actual conflict there at all..

  6. But I do remember this one plot point, where the main character was told by his douchebag friend that he should rank all his friends by how powerful and useful they are. “It’s not discrimination,” he says. “It’s distinction!”

    “The shows I watch are my friends!”
    :P

    No but I stopped ranking the anime I watched after Aria. It made ranking seem so pointless. Doesn’t mean I stopped judging—I just stopped trying so hard to organize my favorites. Shit is still clearly shit.

    SAO Haters Syndrome

    *emerges from under a rock*
    There are others??

  7. You can have both. You can have your cake and eat it too, you just have to learn not to feel bad about it. Schneider touched upon this his comment above, but I agree in that quality and enjoyment are well, separate. As a fan of bad anime like Mad Bull 34 and Kenya Boy, I’m happy to say that enjoying the show for what it is is entirely possible despite being pretty damn horrible.

    The classic pitfall is the belief that objectivity is a game of dissection, that if you take one element in or other elements out, it suddenly becomes worse or better. But objectivity isn’t the sterilization of art and claiming that art has rules is flat out wrong. That’s hella dumb, and French New Wave filmmakers and avant-garde artists already punched this theory into pieces. Objectivity, boiled down all the way, is just truth (whatever the fuck that is) and objective criticism is just the search for it. So being objective just comes down to stating the truth and if you do that, you’re no longer rating the series against yourself but against itself so you can keep subjectivity and objectivity at the same time.

    Also, Deleuze said something pretty damn cool ages ago stating that by eliminating subjectivity, we can become a plane of emotions and feelings by no longer being a person attempting to judge, reason and articulate. Artaud and Godard attempt something similar to this in their work by emphasizing complex sensations, the latter using scenes which mean nothing just for the complexity of the feeling. Projecting feelings or moods which alter perception onto the audience takes objective merit and the more complex the sensation, I find, the better. And conversely, the absolute worst films tend to be not ones which piss off the audience, but ones which inspire nothing. It’s the complexity of the mood and texture which tend to be of the most importance rather than the story, even long after I’ve seen a film.

  8. A lot of you folk have addressed similar points so I thought I’d just do a broad response rather than replying separately.

    Firstly, about this idea that something can be both bad and enjoyable – I don’t necessarily buy into this. I think that any anime, no matter what its other merits, can be considered good if it succeeds in being entertaining – because this is the first and foremost purpose of commercial storytelling and art. If I call something I like horrible, it says more about my own outlook than it does about the work itself.

    HOWEVER (and this is a big however) just because something succeeds in its primary intent does not mean that the series is a success from an artistic perspective, a social perspective, a literary perspective or whatever other viewpoint you take to appraise the product. The most truly successful works – and the ones I would describe as masterpieces – are the ones which are able to hold up after being scrutinised through multiple points of view. That is, it succeeds not just on its own terms but appeals to universal sensibilities.

    This explains the phenomenon of being able to like something that is so niche and low-brow in appeal more than something which is universally regarded as a classic, but being able to acknowledge that the latter is “better” than the low-brow work. The classics are appreciable from multiple points of view, rather than just appealing solely to one particular array of taste.

    If anyone else has any input on this topic or questions they want to ask, go ahead. I don’t necessarily think my point of view is correct or anything.

  9. To me, while I like being a critic when I see something that I don’t enjoy as I can share the things I don’t like. However, I don’t think we should just focus on quality alone. If we do that, it will hurt us at the end as we will have fewer shows that we actually enjoy. Not only that, even if it’s a quality show, some people might not enjoy it because it’s not akin to their tastes or just don’t find it enjoyable. Because of this, I think people need to take a balance approach when it comes to Anime as a show can be average, but still be enjoyable in the end. For me, I factor enjoyably a bit more than quality (even though it’s still important). As a result, I’m not that harsh unless the show is really bad and/or I didn’t enjoy it.

    At the end of the day, being overcritical is not good as one will lose the ability to enjoy anything. It’s better to just enjoy and then criticize later in my opinion.

  10. Well…. Going by what the anime intended to do can leave differing opinions if we just take the story as it is. I personally thought the anime could’ve been great. Not original but a very creative work of fiction. While the story didn’t deliver what I expected or wanted, it’s fairly enjoyable as long as you are willing to go to greater lengths in order to suspend disbelief (really hard to to sometimes in given situations though -_-). I say everyone is entitled to like what they want but there has to be a distinction in quality among different components in a work of fiction. In GC’s case the anime had great animation and a good choice of music but its story was definitely its glaring weakness. Some of the problems in story could have been easily avoided had the writers given thought to certain events using sound logic instead of writing whatever they thought was going to cause jaws to drop to the floor and often for the wrong reasons. All in all, the anime is watchable as are other anime like SAO that are treated similarly by critics but anime like these fell short from what they could’ve delivered. Suffice to say, as long as we don’t forget that constructive criticism is a good thing and allows us to strive for more I think people can like what they want.

  11. What I mean when I say something is bad but enjoyable is I can accept its flaws but still see something to appreciate in it – perhaps on a concept level (a good idea that doesn’t work) or even an aesthetic one.

    Being discerning I think is picking things to watch that interest you personally (rather than because they’re there) and being able to see the shortcomings of a show while also explaining why you like it.

    http://ideaswithoutend.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/thinking-points-vii-hades-project-zeorymer-and-the-right-way-to-like-bad-films/

    This post I wrote a good while back seems a bit proscriptive now but I think it explains well what I mean – Zeorymer is an OVA which works a lot better on paper than to watch.

    • Bro, this is pretty great. Had a “who are you” moment, checked your blog, and what do I see?

      Coming from the My Little Pony fandom, in which a lot of criticism is started to bud, I tend to think like you with some important personal caveats. Ultimately, the issue is social and spiritual. Who are so-called “you” in the so-called “not you?” Should you care?

      First, criticism, if you buy what Oscar Wilde said (people may not), is art. There is pleasure, precision, craft, artifice in reviewing, however vitriolic it may be. All essays use words, but not all use art—most do not, or use relatively little, because they’re precisely geared at simplest understanding, common denominators.

      Entertainment can and does come from the clarification of why you love or hate something, although it’s probably helpful to distinguish on-the-fly convo from formal criticism (whatever form that may take take). Then again, even that might be art, if you wanted to get all atomic and modern about it.

      Second, I think we can’t help but discern art, and that at some point you have to be mature enough to realize certain impossibilities but do the best you can. It’s foolish to say, “It’s all inconsistent, all a cacophony, therefore voices are meaningless.” Don’t movies and TV shows preach against this all of the time? This applies also to criticism. “Story as it is” is an illusion (though informed by denotation, connotation, culture, etc.). I suppose, though, there is “something we mean” when we talk about such appreciation, however. You care about a work of art (a picture, a scene, counts) because of the art it is to you. What happens to you isn’t what happens to me. This is probably why books are so amazing; you have so much power over them that it’s ridiculous, and that’s really the power they have over you. Some elements entertain you, and some don’t. Some matter more than others. You can enjoy parts in certain ways without agreeing with the claim that you like most or even all of it. That’s the sharpest way of expressing what you mean. Not downplaying or overplaying. Not denying the standards you use.

      The problem isn’t judging art; the problem is letting others judge it for you. Effing TTGL. That’s all I have to say.

      As for standards, aren’t they societal? There’s nothing wrong with the debate that some stories achieve higher resolution than others. An actually viscerally-racist or sexist story is actually problematic…to us. I think all criticism of good and bad is contingent on such questions. And we should ask them, as groups of humans, and perhaps as a so-called global community (because it seems that, for better or worse, that time is here, or soon here). Actually go with the flow, and figure out how things are, seek to assert a place in it, and push as hard as matters to you.

      Text is text is text, but at the same time, there are traditions that inform the understanding of them. What the author wants is not necessarily what gets onto the page, and sometimes that’s awesome. More than an author’s intent goes into the story to begin with. The art happens when different people, times, places, enter the picture—leading to a distortion or displacement, a new experience. Sometimes we are gifted with knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes. A lot of the more “classic” otaku were all about being able to distinguish hazy lines in production. Some of these guys still exist—people who, like Forster’s ideal literary historians in Aspects of the Novel, could get at the whys without BSing it. I overtly state the hint that most anime fans are not this. They can research, but it takes a combination of talent and hard work to make sense of it. It isn’t just “theory.” That doesn’t mean that if you want to, you shouldn’t try to do the better kind of analysis, though.

      I personally believe that art should ideally try to cast lines, strain as hard as it can, toward some truth (not “the” truth, since who could figure that head-scratcher out?). But I have a kind of societal-survival view of art: agonize, take as long as it takes, deeply love people and life, create as if someone’s life depended on it. But art doesn’t have to do that to move us and show us visions. So it is what it is. Idealism. But it doesn’t hurt.

      It’s not really sensible for anyone to pretend that authorial intent is psychologically or objectively knowable—Barthes’ famous essay made sure of that. It’s almost a straw-man to accuse people of this, because deep down we don’t really doubt the inherently unreliability. But he didn’t deny discovery of history and authorial claims of intent; that’s just a misinterpretation. Take as many angles as you want. I don’t even see art as language or communication, because it isn’t. It wouldn’t explain why so much of art is so indirect. Which is why I think the point of art isn’t to communicate in itself—stuff like a message or whatever. The goal is just to get others to experience their own art in plausible step with what you experienced as you created and hoped that others might get in their own way. The goal isn’t necessarily even strictly or directly achievable. The way we say things do have an effect, and there are ways of figuring out how to reach people in hazy ways.

      I enjoy and experience scenes a new way every time I watch them. Many mediocre series in my mind are reduced to scenes. Same with all media. I liked Soul Eater just because at first. Then I read Beowulf. I went back to Soul Eater and was dumbfounded…it just clicked, veeeery eerily. Was that intended? Who cares? Historians can figure that one out. Am I just reading in my standards and views? Yeah. But I also read literary theory and philosophy. I also engage the world, and am growing older in it. I’m also trying to be honest in the thoughts I’m communicating. That’s good enough for me.

      • Meant to leave a standard reply for Froggy-Kun. My bad. In fact, r042, I once read this post of yours, and really enjoyed it. Good stuff too, man.

        • @r042: That was a really insightful argument about how we should learn from bad movies. We can focus on the good but ultimately learn from the bad. In this case, forming constructive criticism helps yourself most in the end, especially if you want to become a better writer. That’s a lesson I’ll take to heart.

          @misfortunedogged: I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while now and I have to say I really like your long rants/discussions about the nature of art. Your passion for the subject really comes through. Thanks for sharing!

  12. To me, being discerning and liberal are not mutually exclusive. I am liberal in terms of genre or selection of shows, but I still have awareness of what elements in a show that gets weak or strong. Instead of worrying about having discerning or liberal tastes, I think we should adjust our mindset of watching anime so that we both enjoy and think critically.

  13. I’m also a “glass half full” kind of person when I watch anime. Though I don’t actively seek out certain kinds of anime, like yaoi-heavy titles, ecchi, or sports themed anime because they involve subject matter I’m not big on, if I do watch such titles I’ll always approach them with an open mind and try to focus on things I like about them. After all, anime is meant to be enjoyed so I do my best to find enjoyment in anime first before being critical. The anime I tend to not like are the ones where the “bad” is so explicit that even my optimistic approach can’t distract me from the amount of flaws and other things I dislike. So I guess my tastes would be very liberal XD I know a lot of fans on both sides, discerning and liberal, and I tend to relate better to the liberals because, well, they spend more time just loving anime than putting it under a microscope, and I’m all for that XD While I of course critique and categorize anime when I write about it on my blog, I do it to enhance my own relationship with anime and find out why I like and don’t like certain titles, which is fun and interesting (again, positive things). I’m sometimes puzzled by fans who seem to get more misery and frustration with anime than enjoyment, always hating on things and emphasizing flaws, and I wonder why they keep watching anime when it’s apparently more often an unpleasant experience for them than not. Of course, there’s no rule that says how one should enjoy anime and that a fan with discerning tastes is less of a fan than one with liberal tastes. But for me personally, though I like analyzing and criticizing anime as a casual exercise on my blog, I’m all about focusing on the good rather than the bad.

  14. Honestly, I always become utterly baffled and confused when I read about the subject that is “criticism”. Whenever a discussion appears – whether it’s about games, movies, books or anime – it seems everyone has trouble finding out exactly how they feel about criticism and what kind of criticism they want to see. Some shout about objectivity (which is just silly nonsense in most cases), some shout about the technical sides and some shout about something else.

    Seeing how I’ve never experienced this problem myself, I have trouble actually taking discussions like these seriously for better or for worse because they are so alien to me.

    When it comes to anime I look at what is available in front of me. I look at perhaps Sakurasou and think “Will I like this?” or “Will this somehow be an interesting experience, despite however bad it may be?” or “[Random Part of the Anime] looks cool! I’ll watch it and see what happens!”.
    Nothing more advanced. Perhaps I’ll hear a recommendation and then I might give that particular series a try, like I did with GJ-bu and Mondaiji-tachi (both which I had lots of fun with).

    And then as I watch I naturally have different thoughts. “Oh, I like this”, “Gee, this is sooo sloooow”, “What is even happening?” and so on. Or if I feel the series is trying to convey a message I perhaps do some speculation about it. I simply just watch and let everything come at me naturally.

    Afterwards, when finished, I ask myself the most simple question of them all: “Did I like this?”. And then I think of what I liked or disliked depending on the answer and convey my criticism.

    It’s not harder than that.

    Sorry if I completely missed the point of the post, seeing how I have trouble with discussions like these, but here’s my thoughts on the subject of criticism at least.

    • At its heart, criticism is just explaining WHY you have this gut response to something. It doesn’t usually happen while I’m watching something, just something I mull over afterwards. The thing is that everyone has a different way of approaching something, which is what makes discussions of how you criticise something difficult to wrap one’s head around.

      You’re not missing the point at all. Actually, you’ve hit the nail on the head. There’s no one correct way of doing things, so it’s just going with your gut and knowing what will bring you the most enjoyment out of anime.

  15. Wow there’s a lot of great stuff posted on here. This would be enough for some “coursepack” or “casebook” if you just made the comments twice as long/wordy and slapped academic titles onto them.

    I ultimately fall into the same category as you, because when I try to watch anime I’m hoping to not only maximize what I get out of it intellectually, but also emotionally. I want insight and personal revelation I can apply outside of anime or just admire abstractly, but I also want to experience enjoyment, and most important FEELS (I wish there was a better word for this, but it works). I frequently come across shows I dislike, and I find that a simple change in perspective is enough to get me to enjoy it again, sometimes very much so.

    The only thing I actually tend to judge on is whether a show fails on its own terms, because then for some reason I’m not able to shift perspective to accommodate that. It’s like I can move around outside the media but once I’m inside I’m fully caught up in the world the show tries to create. It’s both kind of cool because I can get really into stuff (e.g. Sakurasou, Space Bros, and even Crime Edge and To Love-Ru) but also works against me (e.g. Little Busters!) because it hampers my ability to devolve fully down to appreciating a collection of “tropes” and “elements”, which sometimes I feel some shows are meant to be seen as.

    On that note though, I actually really enjoyed Guilty Crown because throughout the show I never once said “that doesn’t make sense”. The show managed to craft an environment that, at least for me, made its crazy antics acceptable. But this was also pre-anisphere, so who knows what I would think now.

  16. Big-Mouthed Fool

    You might as well ask me whether I enjoy my toast with butter or salsa. I want to try salsa, because Awesome. Except that I usually stick with butter. Plus, I’m not sure salsa works with bread. So butter.
    A lot of people would have picky tastes, after all, especially as time passes. Including me. For example, I may prefer butter over bread because I know how it tastes – the way the butter glides over my tongue and everything (food porn!). The butter is unsalted, but sprinkled with basil, because I’m picky as fuck. It’s as ordinary and routine as a daily mug of coffee. Sure, salsa on bread might be exciting-but I know my tastes, why should I change them? I may even choose salsa for a similar reason, if I happen to be used to it. It is not reasonable to have total all-inclusive standards for any art medium. That might imply a lack of investment into what the artist is trying to convey. Then again, being too discerning implies I have a stick up my butthole. I’ll say my tastes are like most others; pretty limited in scope and genre.
    I’ll leave it at that.

  17. Okay. I know this is a very old written piece but it has touched me so much especially with my approach to blogging anime nowadays.

    “I see no point in criticising something for being “pandering” or lacking ambition – my concern is thus how well does it execute its own premise?”

    This is actually pretty much the approach I take which might be why I thought Guilty Crown was an anime masterpiece despite many anime fans believing the total opposite.

    At heart of all this, I think it has to do with a difference of perspective on the part of anime fans. I mean it makes sense since they all have different mindsets and that would influence their tastes in anime.

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