On Anime Criticism Part 2

shot0021One big point of contention with anime criticism is the selective nature of some critics. What I mean by this is that some critics will review different shows in vastly different ways, the primary sticking point being whether the show is a type of show that they like or dislike. There are numerous justifications given for this, but it all seems to come down to an abandonment of a simple set of principles and a desire to make criticism easy.

All Media Deserves Fair Criticism

I am a firm believer in the idea that all media deserves a fair shake and fair criticism, and that people who cannot give a given work of media a fair shake because of some prejudice about the work’s genre or distaste for the fans should not review said work of media. While a critic might give a well-thought-out, well-worded, insightful review of a work of media they find acceptable, too often, those same critics will give a superficial review of a work they don’t find acceptable. If criticism is to have any legitimacy to it, this practice needs to come to an end.

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“Who is this garbage for?! Is A-HYUK LOL INCEST WOKKA WOKKA really that hilarious to the otaku crowd?”

It’s okay to just not review something that you dislike enough to not have anything meaningful to say about. And no, “this has fanservice and I don’t like fanservice” or “this is a harem anime and I don’t like harem anime” or “this anime has cute girls with guns and I don’t like guns” aren’t meaningful things to say. Any idiot can tell when an anime has fanservice, is a harem show, or focuses on guns, and knows to avoid shows that have things they find completely objectionable. When a review amounts to little more than “this show has ‘Element X’ and I don’t like ‘Element X,’ so this show is bad,” it’s a useless review to everyone who doesn’t think exactly like the reviewer. What needs to be instilled as part of the culture of good criticism is the ability to get over oneself and give fair and proper criticism to a work.

Valuable Content

Valuable content, put simply, is content that’s worth something. In terms of criticism, being worth something means having some insight, some perspective, and some meaning past just being the opinion of one person. Criticism should encourage the viewer to think about the media they consume and should encourage discussion around said media.

Humor has value, but why can we get only humorous reviews of certain anime out of certain reviewers?
Humor can have value, but why can we get only humor out of certain reviewers for certain types of anime?

With that said, my next assertion for improving anime criticism is that humor, by itself, is without value. Ranting joke reviews are not valuable content. They don’t promote discussion, nor do they get the reader thinking. It’s really easy to gain a following by being funny on the internet. People looking for something to laugh about on the internet are a dime a dozen and they’re remarkably easy to please. Now, I’m not saying that humor doesn’t have its place. However, it’s one thing to be insightful, have perspective, have meaningful things to say, and be able to impart that insight, perspective, and meaning in a humorous manner. It’s another thing entirely to simply choose to be the funny guy because everyone else is taking their role as a critic seriously.

Cynicism and Negativity

It's easy to shoot down a Strike Witches fan. It's harder to shoot down a Strike Witches hater.
It’s easy to shoot down a Strike Witches fan. It’s harder to shoot down a Strike Witches hater.

This issue, in particular, is a societal one. Cynicism and negativity are part of a zeitgeist within our society currently. What I mean by that is that negativity and cynicism are often seen as more valuable than positivity and passion. Within society, the cynic is regarded as experienced, because anyone with a lot of experience on a topic is likely to be very familiar with the negative aspects of that topic. It goes without saying that anyone very experienced with anime has been burned more than once by something anime-related.

Anime critics aren’t stupid. They understand that, when most people see a cynic, they think “That guy’s experienced,” before they think “That guy’s bitter.” It’s very easy to play the “experienced cynic” dynamic in reverse by portraying oneself as cynical in order to appear experienced.

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Not only is cynicism a cheap way to gain popularity, it leads to a change in standards. “Different” becomes “good.”

Coupled with that is the fact that people simply respond more to negativity than they do to positivity, that it’s easier to defend one’s negativity than it is to defend one’s positivity, and that it’s simply easier to articulate negative points than it is to articulate positive points. Being negative and cynical is an easy way to gain a following, especially on the internet. Supporters and detractors will lend their opinion a great deal more often to negativity than to positivity and, while it’s pretty easy to cut someone down for liking something (The anime community proves this time and time again), it’s pretty difficult to do the same for someone not liking something. In addition to all that, like humor, people looking for cynicism and negativity on the internet are numerous and often have low standards, so anybody who can pull off some halfway cynicism and ill-conceived negativity can gain a reasonable following.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, "critics," I want some  insight and perspective into Kodomo no Jikan. I don't care how "pedophilic" you think it is.
At the end of the day, “critics,” I want some insight and perspective into Kodomo no Jikan. I don’t care how “pedophilic” you think it is.

Criticism should be hard.

It should require critical thinking, it should require looking past one’s own sensibilities, and it should require being able to create content that’s actually valuable to people as criticism. A lot of critics are playing on easy mode, and we shouldn’t have to tolerate that. Criticism can be valuable, but that’ll take effort both on the part of the critics and the general fanbase.

The fanbase needs to have standards, hold critics to those standards, and call out the ones who are faking the funk.

The critics need to have standards, hold themselves and their community to those standards, and call out the pretenders to the throne.

If criticism is as valuable as people say it is, let’s, at the very least, make it look like something that’s valuable, rather than pretend that it has value right now.

15 Replies to “On Anime Criticism Part 2”

  1. Then you get people who dismissed kids’ anime as inferior just by reading the premise from seasonal previews, but my anime watching experience proved me otherwise. To be fair to them, these shows tend to build up very slowly and only gets good later on, sometimes after half of the show has aired.

  2. quotes around pedophilic on kodomo no jikan caption? lol

    it’s a show with constant, CONSTANT fanservice involving a young child

    which is presented as if she’s supposed to be sexy

    and you put quotes around it

    the creator is playing a game where they present the gross shit and then basically say “this is bad, don’t get off on kids” as they wink and cross their fingers. the CONTENT of the show/comic/whatever is at odds with the supposed message

    all the implications that a kid was abused and that’s bad are meaningless if the whole time there’s fanservice shot after fanservice shot after fanservice shot as she “hilariously” tries to get the dude to fuck her

    btw that’s not her making those choices

    that’s an author who WROTE it

    because he gets off on it

    and so do the fans

    there’s not even a question about it being pedophilic

    1. #1: Kaworu Watashiya, the mangaka for Kodomo no Jikan, is a woman. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/people.php?id=58294

      #2: There are quotes around “pedophilic” because actually saying that Kodomo no Jikan is pedophilic, means that you think cartoon people and real people are the same, and that you consider anyone who’s attracted to Rin Kokonoe to be equivalent to an actual pedophile who rapes children. That’s why there are quotes around “pedophilic.”

    2. Is there any moral faggot out there who can actually provide irrefutable evidence that lolicon leads to the rape of actual children in real life? Can actually prove that it leads to actual pedophilia. Because I don’t give two flying fucks about how one “feels” that its wrong.

  3. Here’s a funny one: most of the proper criticism of Tamako Market I’ve seen came from people who liked K-ON and were looking forward to what Naoko Yamada did next.

  4. Hello, Timeenforceranubis-san, I happened to find this blog after listening to the ANNcast Ar-Moe-geddon, and just wanted to leave one comment. Did you realize that ANNcast podcast is not a review, but it’s an informal Howard Stern-type dude-having-fun show? It’s often stupid, asinine, and childish, but that’s the point. So I don’t take offense from that show like you described in this blog. However, the Anime News Network Review website does produce serious and fair reviews which I believe are edited by Zach Bertschy. And did you notice that they gave thorough reviews to Clannad After Story and Strike Witches with “A minus” grade? So I think it’s important to draw a line between official review and informal jokes on podcast-type show. I also want to point out that in Japan (I am Japanese) there are no anime review site where professional writers say their honest opinion, because sponsor doesn’t allow any negative comment. So you American fans should appreciate the existence of these few reviews! -Toru

    1. What I was more focused on when I wrote this article was what Zac writes for ANN’s Preview Guide. I know the podcast isn’t a review, and I know that Zac edits the reviews on the site. In fact, I don’t really have a problem with the reviews Zac writes himself, either. My issue, very specifically, is with what he does for the Preview Guide.

      As for criticism in Japan vs. criticism in the West, I do appreciate honest, meaningful, and fair reviews, but that’s not what this is about. This is about choosing to produce non-meaningful content where meaningful content should go. And I’ve heard this argument a lot, that people like me are just mad because we don’t like when critics dislike shows we like, and that’s not the problem. The problem is when we feel that a show hasn’t been given a fair shake.

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