A Girl and Her Fish

Posted by DiGiKerot in Free Talk at October 17, 2006 on 7:35 pm


You may be wondering precisely why Impz has linked to an image of a girl with a fish. You may not be – you might have just assumed that it’s the kind of kooky thing that Impz would do. If that’s the case, then you may as well just be on your merry way.

The more observant amongst you may have, infact, noticed that it’d be rather hard for Impz to link to a post that is actually referring back to a post that Impz would have been in the process of writing. If you were a computing device in an old science fiction movie, you would presently be in the process of overheating due to the bizarre twist in logic involved. Otherwise, I just curse your Victorique-esque powers of deduction, having no doubt figured out that this post was amended post fact.

*sigh*

This is kind of what you’d call something coming back to bite you on the arse. Honestly, I’d thought this post had been long forgotten, but alas, I’ve been proved wrong. It’s a post I’ve regretted making ever since I actually posted it – not necessarily sentiment, but certainly the amount of hyperbole I imbued the post with. Thinking back, I think I was just really, really annoyed having completed some show people were praising the writing on, only to find it completely underwhelming (I think it may have been Starship Operators, but I’m not certain), and needed to vent about it.

Bringing this back up is particularly bad given that I’m in a pretty good place with anime recently, and I think at the moment is pretty much in the best place it’s been in a long, long time – there’s a lot of good shows floating around these days.

Anyway, the body of the original post follows. You can read it if you really want to. Realising how painful I find this to be, I suspect you will. Bah ^^;

Original title: Anime Sucks

No, this isn’t one of those “giving up anime fandom” posts. In this weeks Animenano podcast they answered a question of mine in which I stated that most anime was, in fact, awful. I figured the statement was probably worth some explanation.

I do, genuinely, believe that most anime is pretty bad. I think those who don’t admit this fact are deluding themselves, and I think those who manage to convince themselves that anime is somehow better that everything which comes out of the Western entertainment industry are pretty much insane. When it comes down to it, most anime shows are really badly written, and most of them get away with it simply because they are anime.

Look at things this way – what kind of reaction would your parent or non-fan siblings have to a lot of the shows you watch and enjoy, even the ones you would categorise as “good”? If you were being honest, you’d probably admit they would cause a whole lot of cringing, eye-rolling and laughing at the writing. The fact is that most anime shows get away with things which would cause any western show to get a critical mauling, and sometimes have a complete lack of internal logic. They simply do things they wouldn’t even consider doing in any other medium.

As means of an example, I was watching some Kaleidostar the other day. Kaleidostar is predominantly set in America, but being a Japanese show everybody – even when no-one Japanese is around – speaks in perfect Japanese. I guess if you wanted to you could take the assumption that whenever you hear anyone speaking Japanese they are actually speaking English, but then you get to the episode where they visit France. Pretty much the first thing which happens is them trying to get a taxi, but in true comic fashion the taxi driver can’t understand them, because they don’t speak French. I guess you could probably forgive this, though I’d debate the chances of any taxi driver working near a major airport not speaking a word of English. What makes it worse is that everyone else we meet over the course of the episodes in France can communicate with them perfectly – even the drunkard old ex-Trapeze instructor. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

That’s not really a great example, as its not as if Kaleidostar is a show people would actually take all that seriously, but its the kind of thing all anime is littered with. Us people who watch anime simply accept these things. To a certain degree, I think this kind of thing is part of the reason a lot of us like anime, and part of the reason a lot of anime shows continue to be bad is because they continuing doing things like the shows people watch, which were in turn pretty bad.

A lot of fans often seem to find it odd that people outside of fandom seem to rate things like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell so highly when they consider it pretty averaging compared to Super Highschool Comedy X, but really its not that surprising. The fact is, these shows aren’t assuming the viewer is a fan, and they aren’t written to that audience. They are written with the assumption that normal people might actually watch them. Shinichiro Watanabe, the director of Cowboy Bebop, admitted in an interview once that the reason he got into anime was simply that someone told him that it was easy to become a director. The fact is, he just wanted to direct stuff, and if it wasn’t anime he’d be trying to find some other way to direct movies or TV shows. Ultimately, he probably doesn’t have enough of an attachment to anime or manga to produce stuff overly pandering to that audience, and its reflected in the final shows – they are things you don’t have to be a fan to appreciate.

Conversely, most the shows us fans watch are things targeted at anime fans. Aside from those fans who start young enough to not know better or simply never grew out of western cartoons, I think most anime fans go through a progressive change in their acceptance of the conventions they are built on – most fans won’t have started watching the otaku shows. They’ll have started watching Ghibli or Bebop or Satashi Kon or something else which, by western media standards, is actually a well made show or movie. From there they’ll probably find something similar but not quite as good – it’ll have some flaws or oddness to it, but nothing they can’t accept. After seeing a few shows like that, they’ll end up watching something of the next quality tear down, and if they aren’t put off at any point then they’ll come to expect the kind of things anime throws at you what they wouldn’t expect elsewhere.

I think the ultimate truth is that the best anime simply isn’t as good as the best live action productions – either in or outside of Japan. The fact is that, whilst I’d probably end up watching the anime in preference, anime just doesn’t come near the quality of work being produced elsewhere. I don’t disagree that 90% of everything is crap, its just that I tend to feel that if I applied the same critical eye I apply to US movies and TV to anime that even 90% of the good shows are crap. That isn’t to say there aren’t shows which are good – there are, and there tends to be a few shows every year like Paranoia Agent, Bebop or, at a stretch, Haruhi (I’m not going to give you Air, and certainly not Kanon, though), but its a vast minority of shows which don’t have what would be considered crippling flaws outside of anime.

Not that it particularly bothers me, and anyone who knows my viewing habits know I love pulpy trash like My-ZHiME and Gundam SEED Destiny. GSD in particular gets increasingly awful as it goes along, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying it. Hell, the only reason I tolerate Kannazuki no Miko is simply that its so bad that it makes me laugh. It’d also be hypocritical of me to be condescending to other anime fans given how much of the stuff I watch myself, but I have to admit that even for me there is a whole level of shows I consider as being below me what a lot of people enjoy. There are just some anime conventions I’m not willing to let slide ^^;

Coincidently, I think part of the reason that so many movie spinoffs of popular shows end up being unpopular among fans is that they simply try to actually be a decent movie – the producers so often seem to fall into the trap of assuming that they have to do something big or grand what appeals to people other than the existing fanbase, and as a result end up with something which has a completely different tone (or Aura of Crapness) to the original work. This just results in something which neither fans or the general audience can really accept, which is just about the situation most anime movies find themselves in – they aren’t good enough to be good, or rubbish enough to be interesting, just tedious.

Anyway, this has been a long, rambling post without any real point to it, so I guess I’ll just end it here without having made a coherent argument.


Hinano
2006-10-17
#

and by spinoff you obviously mean Kujibiki Unbalance :P


DiGiKerot
2006-10-17
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Actually, I’ve not even seen the new Kujian yet (and I’ll probably make that “ever” given how badly received its been ^^;)


j.valdez
2006-10-17
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“so I guess I’ll just end it here without having made a coherent argument.” – no prob, I’m all about rambling and incoherent arguments. I agree that 90% of anime is crap, but it’s the other 10% that keeps me watching.


super rats
2006-10-18
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Anime is so bad it’s good? Kaleido Star is a good example of something which is extremely stupid that I enjoy to pieces. The writing is terrible and its message is extremely corny (I do like its corny message though). The animation medium does let you get away with things that nobody would accept in a live action, which is kind of its charm.

I do wish more directors would do some research or study on how to pace a beginning, middle, and end of a series. That to me is where anime really falls short in its credibility. I don’t mind the silliness of some of the conventions and the abundance of idea retreads.


yuribou
2006-10-18
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I love crap anime. In fact, I don’t think I watch good anime ^_^;;;


[…] Indeed. […]


Asuka
2006-10-19
#

“I don’t disagree that 90% of everything is crap, its just that I tend to feel that if I applied the same critical eye I apply to US movies and TV to anime that even 90% of the good shows are crap.”

You obviously haven’t been looking at Hollywood productions… :P

That aside, I think anime-watching takes on a special type of mindset. It’s simply not fair to be comparing American TV to anime. First of all, you were probably brought up watching American TV, and are therefore used to the individualistic nature of the programs. Japan, on the other hand, is a collectivist country, which is reflected in its media culture. What seems corny and hilarious to the Americans may actually be perceived as genuine by the Japanese – and vice-versa. Therefore, it is not fair to compare an “exotic” culture with one you’re more used to, because you will always be more comfortable with the one you grew up with, at least initially.

Second, anime is not targetted at a wide audience, the way American TV is. Most otaku watch anime for a specific kind of entertainment. American TV/movies, on the other hand, target the masses. The two streams head in different directions, with different values. It really isn’t up to anyone to call one stream more superior than the other.

I just want to clarify, however, that I’m taking a neutral stand here. Some anime have really rotten storyline, directing, etc. but they still exist to fill a demand. Not MY demand – some other otaku’s. =)


StarCreator
2006-10-19
#

Only commenting on a small off-comment here…

I actually thought that, for the most part, Kaleido Star handled the language issues pretty well. Sure, they were probably careless and/or stretching things for the sake of telling the story here and there, but whenever a situation where a language barrier would exist came to be, it was rarely ignored. Sora’s friend that came to visit mentioned that Sora had taken a courses in English before her arrival in the US, which explains how she can converse (albeit a little too fluently) with the rest of the cast. When Rosetta and Sora exchange emails, they are very clearly in English. The scenes with Ken and Police-san in Japan were pretty hilarious too. And I’m pretty sure a man that was a world-famous trapeze trainer could speak at least a little English to be able to do his job. I find little surprise there.

As for the taxis, it sorta bothered me that they didn’t even try just speaking to them normally before coming up with horribly jumbled-up French. Might have worked, but the joke was there, so it had to be told…

(The Kaleido Star fanatic bows out.)


DiGiKerot
2006-10-19
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“Most otaku watch anime for a specific kind of entertainment.”

Isn’t this essentially equating most anime to the level of softcore cable porn? I mean, most people watch that for a specific kind of entertainment (tits and ass). The thing is, like like porn, I can’t help but think a lot of shows simply don’t try beyond their attracting gimmik. Its like Coyote Ragtime Show, where they used the fact that people would watch just for the Robot Goth Loli Death Squad as an excuse not to have anything resembling consistant characterisation or a particularly coherent story. I just don’t think that they should use the fact that fanboys will probably watch anyway as an excuse to not actually try to do anything decent with the show.


Asuka
2006-10-20
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“Isn’t this essentially equating most anime to the level of softcore cable porn?”

Oh no, I didn’t say that. I call anime a “specific kind of entertainment” because of its form. Anime is, essentially, animated 2D drawings, and it takes a unique kind of taste to appreciate. ‘Til this day, people I talk to still think of anime as “kiddy stuff” because it features art rather than real flesh.

Again, anime exists due to demand. Your demand may be a plausible story, likable characters, and such. Some other otaku may simply be drawn to the inclusion of Goth Loli Death Squads or Bunny-Girls-That-Have-Bombs-Exploding-Out-Of-Their-Ass type of thing. Since you don’t seem to like the latter genre, you have the power to avoid it. Besides, it is the slew of horrible shows that make the amazing one stand out. =)


DiGiKerot
2006-10-20
#

Theres a show about Bunny-Girls-That-Have-Bombs-Exploding-Out-Of-Their-Ass? Man, I’d be soooo all over that one…

But, seriously, I don’t really avoid anything in terms of anime – when it comes down to it, entertainment and enjoyment isn’t necessarily connected to actual quality. That fact is, I enjoy pretty much all the anime I watch on one level or another, but enjoy and liking a show is completely different thing to actually considering a show to actually be genuinely well made.

I absolutely agree when you said that anime-watching takes a special type of mindset. I don’t normally mention it because I’m (believe it or not) not really the kind to be an elitist prick, but I’ve been watching anime for something like 12 years now, and I tend to follow the anime scene a lot closer than Western media – I’m acclimatised to the watching and following anime. The thing is that, typically, I only ever seem to be in that mindset when I’m actually watching and engrossed in a show. It’s essentially as if when I sit down to watch anime I switch off a chunk of my brain for the duration of the show. The really good shows are the ones which force me to re-activate that part of the brain.

It always impresses me how people can do those really detailed episode summaries of every show they watch and still enjoy anime, though. For me, when I start to look at shows in that kind of detail I kind of find myself at the point where I tend to make fun of it rather than taking it seriously – the writing process just makes me think too hard about it, and if you set your mind to it most shows have really blatant flaws its really easy to make fun of.

As I said in the post, I’m really being incredibly hypocritical here anyway – I spend an awful amount of time, money and effort following the anime scene, and someone who has actually seen and enjoyed MD Geist has no real right to accuse others of having low standards. Frankly, I watch a lot of anime most fans would consider it bad and still manage to genuinely enjoy them, not just for the sake of making fun of them. Even those episodes of Kaleidostar I mentioned are somewhere of the region 40 episodes in, and I’m watching it on DVD – am I really going to be spending that money if I didn’t actually really enjoy the show?

I guess that the only real point I wanted to make is that, as anime fans (myself included), we are willing to let an awful lot of things slide that we probably wouldn’t in other mediums simply because there’s something we find irresistibly entertaining about it – essentially that we enjoy anime despite the fact that most of it is highly flawed. For some reason I don’t think anyone can actually fathom out, all us anime fans apply a completely different set of critical laws to anime shows which allow us to enjoy things in spite of what the quality might seem to an outsider or even a fan doing a detailed critical analysis.

The main post was, admittedly, a little heavy handed in its approach, but I don’t really see the point in beating around the bush, and I don’t think anything I said was particularly untrue.

Man, I hate it when my own follow-ups make more sense than the actual posts ^^;


Jim Kitchnen
2006-10-20
#

Wow. I’m sorry, but what a load of absolute drivel. Even if Sturgeon’s Law weren’t a contrived piece of garbage that’s absolutely false, your verbose rant has still failed utterly for attempting to pretend that realism (which you tried to disguise as “internal logic,” at least from your Kaleido Star example) is somehow the most honorable aim of art and entertainment, as if pesteringly simple-minded observations of “OMFG that would never happen in the REAL world” is somehow the entire basis for critical endeavor. Look, I can do it too! “OMFG, that weird thing in the foreground looks more like a dark amalgamated tower than a tree, and what the heck! Stars are certainly not that huge when I see them in the night sky. Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night is obviously terrible.” Nevermind that The Starry Night is one of the most beloved paintings of the last few centuries.

You certainly seem to put a lot of credence behind this idea of Western *perception*. Now, just let the word sink in for a minute. *Perception*. Has it ever occured to you that quality itself is something that must be perceived, and that all people have different perceptions, and therefore, even the most objective of all criticisms is still dependent on the person offering the criticism? In other words, quality, just like subject matter, is still subjective. You can realize this easily by noting that different people have differing criteria by which they judge a work, and even in those spare cases where two people would absolutely concur on which specific criteria should be taken into account, they will still not agree on which critera *should be considered the most important*. I for one hate it so fricking much when people bring up the goddamn *writing* for something that is supposed to be *visual* art and entertainment medium. In my opinion, the visual component in both live-action and animation works will always be vastly more essential to its quality than the writing ever will. Do you see how this perspective thing works? It’s not that difficult to comprehend.

If given enough time to dissect the various connectable principles behind a particular critical system and applying them to myriads of examples and elements, I could PROVE to you that anime, in general, is better on average than American television and movies, *from a certain perspective*. Probably the greatest flaw I see in human understanding is that we often care more about analyzing and affirming ficticious, though sadly often socially accepted, truths than welcoming diverse opinions. It’s trains of thought like yours that are the reason animation is not more accepted over in America, and it’s a general spit in the face to animators, especially those in Japan, who usually have to work ten times harder than their animation peers and live-action creators in America (with a fifth of the budget, to boot) just to get their stuff to be comparable.
I mean, highly flawed? That’s laughable. All things, including aesthetic and literary efforts, are flawed, if you choose different points-of-view from which to view them. And it’s a damn good thing, too, because otherewise us flawed humans would have no way to appreciate them.

Now, even though there are a great many more things about this article I’d like to denounce, I’m afraid I’m far too lazy to write any further. I hope I didn’t come off as too condescending, because I don’t mean to do much more than criticize this particular idea of yours. As a final thought, I laughed at your Coyote Ragtime Show comment. Because of course, that show is really the most popular show this year amongst “otaku,” isn’t it? (Note: It isn’t.)


DiGiKerot
2006-10-20
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“Wow. I’m sorry, but what a load of absolute drivel.”

Hey, there’s no need to apologize – in fact, I appreciate the fact that you put that much effort into lambasting me, even if you do put me in the somewhat awkward position of not being able to actually disagree with anything you’ve said with any degree of conviction.

I do disagree about not bringing the quality of writing into question when judging a shows quality – it’s true that film is a largely visual medium, but if they are going to try to have something of a story in their show, it just seems perfectly fair to judge the work on its quality. That isn’t to say that it should ever be the most overriding factor on what a show is judged, but particularly bad writing can destroy a show just as much as bad animation or an inappropriate soundtrack.

Should we put up with bad writing simply because a show has great animation, a good soundtrack or great direction? I do agree with you that, ultimately, that is to be judged by the viewer, and that different people will place different levels of importance of different elements of the production – as much as I may come across as a snob for writing, I’m a total sucker for pretty animation, design and music. I think the main reason I like Gundam Seed Destiny (which, by anyones accounts, has its narrative completely fall apart in its final quarter) is because Toshihiko Sahashis soundtrack for that show is, IMHO, amazing.

In hindsight, I do think that second paragraph was unnecessarily heavy-handed and confrontational, not to mention condescening and insulting, and I should probably apologize for any offence caused by that is essentially a statement of personal opinion. Certainly, it makes me sound like far more of a condescending prick than anything you’ve had to say ^^;

And of course Coyote Ragtime Show isn’t particularly popular, and I didn’t mean to imply it actually was. Aside from the fact that Haruhi is an awful lot harder to actually pick fault with, it’s just the most immediate example of a show which completely wasted its potential that sprung to mind.

Thanks again for you comment, though you have just made me late in leaving for work ^^;


Jim Kitchnen
2006-10-20
#

As far as the writing in a show is concerned, I didn’t mean to say that it lacks *any* value as critical criteria. I worry more about people deriding a show based almost solely on it’s writing (and this happens a lot more than you might think, and I’m not limiting it to just anime), and giving barely a whisker of worth to all the other elements a show has to offer.

Late for work, eh? Of course, that was my true intention all along! *evil dance*


Chris
2006-10-20
#

You have a problem with Kaleido Star because it ignored the language issues? Have you ever watched Star Trek? Have you ever watched *any* American show? Sure there are a few shows or movies which don’t ignore the language issues that would occur in reality but those are extremely rare and I doubt many people would care. If you need that sort of pedantic realism, I wonder why you watched anime in the first place.

I have no problem with recommending the shows I consider as really good to anyone I know or I’m related too. I almost think you have the wrong friends or relatives, if you assume they would consider those as crap. That said, I’m sure they don’t have the same taste as me and some of them have certainly some prejudice against anime or just no interest but I wouldn’t be embarrassed.

There are certainly shows I just watched out of boredom. Those I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Neither my friends nor a random stranger just like I don’t brag about picking my nose.

There may be a few guilty-pleasure shows but that’s no different from watching pr0n or looking at dirty fotos. Do you share those moments with your parents and friends? I don’t. That doesn’t make it non-enjoyable crap.

Further, insider-only anime exists. Shows that can’t be enjoyed without getting the references or at least not as much e.g., Pani Poni Dash or Keroro Gunsou. That’s not unique to anime at all, there are books, movies and TV series that require insider knowledge as well.

You realize several valid issues but, in my opinion, your conclusions are all wrong, too extreme and simply one-dimensional. Just claim you were playing the advocatus diaboli.


DiGiKerot
2006-10-21
#

“Just claim you were playing the advocatus diaboli.”

Agreed – to be honest, I’m seriously regretting the overtly heavy handed approach I took here (not least because its pretty uncharacteristic for me). I have actually written a draft of a post which essentially details the flaws in my own post before making expanding on it in a rather more level handed fashion, but frankly I’m not sure I really want to post it – I’d rather just move on to be honest.

I don’t really have a problem with Kaleido Star because it ignored language issues – I only really had a problem with that once scene because it tried to make a joke that simply didn’t make sense to me. If I really wanted to take issue with Kaleido Star, I’m sure there are far more serious problems I could pick out, but as far as it goes I enjoy the show.


[…] It could be the reflexive Kanon anti-hype or the sporadic tirade against the host of bishoujo series this Fall, but of late I found my thoughts dwelling why one would persevere with any series or ultimately anime especially if much displeasure was derived from it. Digiwombat and Jeff’s timely posts with their commentors provided some insights to their own motivations for sticking with the Great Art. And I thought it would be good to chronicle mine (so that I may possibly be quoted in some Anime 101 class in the year 30XX). […]


w
2006-10-23
#

Just to commento n an earlier comment…

>What seems corny and hilarious to the Americans may actually be perceived as genuine by the Japanese – and vice-versa.

Don’t most ‘typical’ Japanese shun away from a good amount of anime that is released? Or at least, they don’t respect otaku who watch “little girl’s shows”. Some are ashamed of promoting anime as part of their culture (I’ve met such people before).
Although judging by their normal entertainment they still do have a very different perception of entertainment from the West, I guess…


[…] Jeff Lawson frequently writes provocative – but not inflammatory- posts, which is why I love visiting his blog even when he grills my favorites. Just chipping in my two cents on this recent topic , where he criticizes the sketchy pseudoscience and loosely woven plot of Starship Operators, which then evolves into a musing partially inspired by DigiKerot’s diatribe. […]


[…] the reasons that people use to justify their hatred. A quick look at previous entries writing about this topic mostly focuses on why or why anime do not suck, but it misses something important. What are […]


[…] … provided at a cost, referred to as interest on the debt. A borrower may be subject to certain restrictions known as loan covenants under the terms of loan Loan… […]


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