Some thoughts on reconciling with negative anime opinions especially those pertaining to fan-service.

This is a bit of a wishy-washy post, but all of my posts these days are. This is may also be taken as an insult or a hot take and uhh, sorry about that.

It can be hard accepting negative opinions on stuff you like. There is a reason ANN forums, reddit comments for a review or CR comments etc, are often full of disdain for the author who just ‘doesn’t get it’.

And of course, it is pretty bad if you argue (like most people on the net) using flaky reasoning and personal attacks. If anything, I strongly recommend you just don’t bother. 99.9% of the time, your ‘objective reasoning’ will simply be a matter of taste or priorities (some need x in an anime to be good, others prefer y to be good).

Still, it comes from an understandable place. You don’t like it when something you liked was disliked. It makes you feel like you were wrong to dislike it.

It has taken me 6+ years, but I’ve finally grown an opinion shield, I can handle hot takes about the anime I like….well, not entirely, especially not on twitter.

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If only I could turn off my phone so easily.

I’ve been trying to write a post on why I’m not fond of ‘criticism’ on very public, in your face, services like twitter, and suffice to say, I have not yet succeeded at it.

For now, it will be enough to say I don’t like seeing negative opinions on places like twitter because they are really hard to avoid! At least with a dedicated blog post, you can easily chose to not read them!

“But criticism is good! My critique of something should not affect your enjoyment of it!” Oh, but it does. I love this Anitwitter cliche quote. It is one of those things that should theoretically be true, but practically never is. I guess it is a bit like saying “you should be calm if your hair is on fire” because in practice, you often won’t be.

That is a rather extreme comparison, but roughly speaking that’s my problem with it. Folk who can use that quote are those who’ve come to accept and understand what they like, don’t like and are supposedly comfortable with the opinions of others (supposedly).

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A lot of newer fans are not in that position and that position is actually rather hard to obtain unless you really do want to wear the critic’s mindset, which is also something not everyone wants to, nor should they want to. It took me years to get to the “I won’t let 70% of opinions affect my enjoyment of an anime” level I’m at. I am sympathetic to the poor newcomer who blows up in rage when someone tweets a hot take on Attack on Titan.

But, that’s a different more involved post, probably. For the rest of this post, I’ll clarify why some negative opinions are far more irksome to me than others and why I’m struggling with it.

My running theory is that I find easily defended criticism much easier to stomach because well, it is easily rebutted. If someone says Chitoge is worst Nisekoi girl, then that’s pretty easily chalked up to taste. If someone says says they couldn’t watch more of something because of the art style, then that’s also just a matter of taste or priority. (Some folk don’t like certain art styles and some find a bad art style to be more or less of a demerit than others.)

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The one form of criticism that I’ve always struggled to reconcile and accept is the one that revolves around the treatment of women in anime, especially with respect to fan-service. I can’t reconcile because more often than not, it is valid and true. In some cases, where I don’t like that part of the anime either, I can accept those faults and enjoy the rest. I enjoyed Fate Stay/Night (2006) despite hating on the treatment Saber got precisely because the rest of it still resonated with me. But, in other cases I can’t. I can’t because I do enjoy the fan-service. I do enjoy the questionable scenes.

And I can’t really defend that, nor can most folk in my shoes. Crudely speaking, my observations suggest that when it comes to fan-service, or lewd material, the fandom can be coarsely divided into three groups. The first group is the bunch that outright hates fan-service and wants nothing to do with it. For some, it is just preference, others a deep concern for feminist ideals and some just religious piety (these latter two meld and clash in interesting ways).

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Then there is the group I mostly closely associate with. The folk who claim fan-service and its irk is ‘questionable’ but they still like it. The self-proclaimed trash party if you will.

“So, you liked Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maō?”

“err, yes.”

“Even the harem fan-service?”

“err, yes”

“why?”

“well, uhh, you see I’m trash.”

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‘Trash’. A word we ironically use to describe ourselves on the net. We laugh and go ‘hey, haha, I’m trash! I like this trashy stuff!’, but deep down, it is more of a sombre deflection. “Yeah, I am not supposed to like this, but I do. I guess I’m trash. I’m trash. I’ll try to be proud of that.” We are proud of comparing ourselves to apple skin, banana peels, plastic wrapping, empty soda cans and whatever else goes in the trashcan. Talk about a positive self-image. What a joke.

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Finally there is the third group, the folk who are almost proud of their thirst. I don’t want to over-generalize, but most of the ‘NU UH STOP CENSORING MA ANIME & VIDYA GAMES YOU DAMN SJWs’ probably fall in here. As silly as the stuff they say is, as easy as it easy to make fun of, their anger/fear (unjustified/misplaced as it may be) comes from a genuine place. They don’t want stuff they like to go away. And that’s a relatable feeling even if it is a seemingly misplaced one.

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Of course, there are several folk who believe in good fan-service. “Fan-service can still be empowering” they say, arms crossed with a smug shiny smile that’s only outshone by the glint of their crotch. I, too, tend to prefer the ‘good’ kind of fan-service. I’ll take the ‘girls change clothes without embarrassment scenes’ in New Game over ‘clothes are ripped during combat’ any day. I’ll take a thousand ‘well meaning harem lead trips on stairs and accidentally gropes girl’ scenes over a single ‘villain licks Asuna’s eye’ scene. But, perhaps that is just preference on my part.

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It is easy for me to sit here and proclaim the stuff I like is worth more than the stuff found in anime like Btoom or Cross Ange or Daimidaler, but it may very well be entirely fetish biased. I don’t know if I have the right to claim my preferences are less problematic than others and even if I did, I don’t think I should.

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At this point, no doubt you are rocking in your chair, eagerly anticipating the end of this post, so you can leave a steaming hot sentence. You place the wine glass atop your side table, and lean back on your golden throne. A smug smile appears, and a single tooth shines behind the hand with which you’ve embraced your face. “But you see, it is okay to like problematic things as long as you understand it is problematic.” You take a puff out of your pipe before switching to your vape, seemingly satisfied with the rock of wisdom you just dropped on me.

A rock of supposed wisdom it may be, but a dropped rock hurts nonetheless.

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“Sword Art Online treats its female characters like shit. What a terrible show. Oh, but you are still cool if you like it as long as you understand why it is bad.”

“God, I hate these revealing costumes. How could anyone think it was a good idea? Oh, you like them. No worries, you are still cool as long as you understand that they are gross.”

“Ugh, the male gaze is so strong in this show. What, it matches your gaze? No worries, just be cognisant of that!”

“Ugh, KyoAni, you are normally so good, why are you making this Phantom World boob bouncy bullshit. Oh, you like it? Well, I just think they’ve made better stuff, you know.”

“The fact that so many LN adaptations sacrifice female protagonist agency in favour of male fantasy is incredibly problematic. What, you like this shit? lol, can’t account for trash taste.”

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There is a Big Lebowski meme that goes “You’re Not Wrong, but You’re an asshole”. I’ve seen it used to great effect against militant atheists on reddit and to an extent, it is applicable here too. It is great when you are able to detach yourself enough from your media to criticize it willy nilly and better even when those criticisms line up perfectly with your personal preferences and beliefs, but not everyone can do that. Not everyone can reach critic Nirvana nor should they try to . In pointing out that my blanket has holes and that they were there all along, you’ve stated no falsehood, but you’ve shattered an illusion of comfort. And the night is colder for it.


I am not entirely sure what lessons I mean to impart with this post. I noticed that the criticisms others had for anime on twitter often made me grumpy, so I cut back on my own. I haven’t totally succeeded, but I’ve tried my best to not tweet mean things about anime this year.

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But, I don’t know if I could ever expect others to do the same. Some folk, understandably, don’t want to make or run a blog. Others find joy in sharing their rants with like minded friends. In this world where anger against real life happenings almost always accompanies depression and uncertainty, rants against media feel euphoric. Anger makes us happy. Group anger gives us strength. I don’t think I have the right to pull that blanket out from anyone.

So, I end this post having asked questions and answered none. But, it is a post containing thoughts I’ve been meaning to get out for a while now, so I am glad for that chance at least. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to watching my questionable anime.

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Thanks for reading.

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  1. #1 by iblessall on August 18, 2016 - 10:06 pm

    This was great. Huge fan of how honest this was. I’m really appreciative of your voice on this subject.

    • #2 by Reiseng on August 18, 2016 - 10:15 pm

      Thank you Bless. That means a lot. ^_^

  2. #3 by Yog-shi on August 18, 2016 - 10:23 pm

    thank you and good work.

    I’m a whisky/sake man myself, tho I’ll drink a good rosè wine if it’s there. He sits back. smirking at his joking reference to a reference in your post.

    More to the point, I find your position to be the most generally agreeable with my own (if there’s anything I want to unpack it’d be the whole “I’m trash” mentality, but that’s its own post).

    Additionally, the as long as you know X you can enjoy Y argument, is (I hope) intended to be well meaning on the speakers part, polite way of policing your circle, may not want to associate with someone who likes a thing for the reasons you like it in spite of them, HOWEVER youre absolutely correct in that there’s no way to sound that off without coming off as dismissive or an asshole.

    Full disclosure of my tastes: (some) of the shows I consider to be worth watching that are primarily fanservice focused. Plastic Little, Kanokon, Highschool DxD, and Qwaser of Stigmata

    • #4 by Reiseng on August 18, 2016 - 10:36 pm

      Yeah, most folk who say “you can like x despite y” are generally well meaning and at least the folk I know would rarely say something like that to your face. This is just me speaking to the general osmosis ‘absorbs everything on the tl’ affect I’ve mastered.

      And yes,I am aware of your questionable taste! I still have to finish DxD but I loved the first season and what I saw of the 2nd. Gonna check out the others someday, maybe.

      Thanks for the comment. ^_^

  3. #5 by Karandi on August 19, 2016 - 2:04 am

    I really enjoyed reading this. It’s an issue that we all need to consider when interacting online and sharing our opinions and reading those of others. While there may not be one right answer at the end I think people just need to respect that their view isn’t the only one out there and even if they have good reasons for their opinion it is still an opinion. Though, that may be easier said then done.
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    • #6 by Reiseng on August 19, 2016 - 2:05 am

      Thank you for the comment and praise! I am glad I was able to bring some enjoyment to your day. ^_^

  4. #7 by LitaKino on August 19, 2016 - 8:42 am

    Your read was very honest and I enjoyed hearing your personal feelings on the issues of negativity anywhere here on the web. It was interesting of how you bought up the issues of how anime treats it’s female charcacters, I agree on the part with kyoto animations winter 2016 series, I was thinking this really is not like kyo ani, there not all about boobs. just made me not to watch the series all together at obvious pictures I saw lol I don’t mind fan service but there are times when in series I’ve watched it’s annoyed me of there being too much, when it gets to that point I might stop watching the show all together.

    I’d be lost if I didn’t have my blog to write my thoughts would be real lost. ^^

    • #8 by Reiseng on August 19, 2016 - 3:27 pm

      Ty for the comment and yes, it is lovely having a blog you can occasionally put your thoughts and feelings into. ^_^

  5. #9 by lesterf1020 on August 19, 2016 - 12:15 pm

    You put a lot of thought into this and are clearly conflicted on your tolerance for fanservice. I have no such issues. I used to have them a long time ago and then I decided that I watch fictional entertainment to be entertained, not to update my critic credentials or SJW status.

    I have shit taste and I don’t care because it is fiction and it entertained me. There are masterpieces of fiction that I hate and there are absolutely trashy shows that I adore. I am perfectly capable of telling the difference between excellent shows and crap shows but that is not why I watch entertainment. My job is not to be a critic or arbiter of quality. What I like has to do one thing and one thing only, entertain me. It can do it in any number of ways but that’s all it needs to do.

    I feel the same way about criticism of shows I love. Criticism will not lower the entertainment value of my choices. They might provide me with new insights and even provoke some self reflection but if I liked it no amount of “proof” that it is terrible is going to change that. I will just note it is not popular. The funny thing is that almost all of my shit taste eventually ends up on home video. So I am clearly not alone.

    You also should not let your personal shit taste be a measure of who you are. You can be Ghandi or Abraham Lincoln or Nelson Mandela and like a good fart joke and big Boobs. It wont undo who you are.

    • #10 by Reiseng on August 19, 2016 - 4:16 pm

      That’s probably a good mindset to have. It is good to be able to separate individuals from their taste and something I do try to do.

      Ty for the comment.

      • #11 by Highway on August 19, 2016 - 11:47 pm

        As you say here, it’s good to separate individuals from their taste, but I sure do find it hard when they enjoy something I find completely odious, like Diabolik Lovers. Talk about horrible messaging…

  6. #12 by Highway on August 19, 2016 - 11:43 pm

    I think of course we want to defend a lot of the things we like, because we like being told we are right. And we hate being told we are wrong. So I think that acknowledging that “hey, I like that, and I can’t exactly say why, but I don’t like being told that it’s crap” is an important thing. And like you, I think that there’s a lot of importance to criticism having a specific point, even if it usually translates to “I wish they had done this a bit differently.” I personally have banished the critique “pacing” from any review I do, because by itself it doesn’t mean anything. If you wanted them to spend more time on something else, say what that was. If you thought they spent too much time on something in particular, say why. “The pacing was bad” is a contentless, contextless critique that I think too many people fall back on.

    Now, for the big theme of half your post: I like most (sexual) fanservice (I will set aside for now the argument that ‘fanservice’ encompasses much more than that, from putting in battles to killing off characters to extreme violence and gore to melodrama to whatever people like to see). You know what? Just about everyone likes to look at attractive members of humanity. Pretty much the only ones who don’t are asexual, and that’s fine, but they’re not a large percentage of the population. Is there some that is objectifying? Heck yes. Would it be better if it was replaced with non-objectifying sorts? Yes, mostly. But as with outright porn, I don’t think there’s as much of a link between the media you consume and the way you act as many say there is. Would I like to see much better gender roles in media? Yes. Especially anime, since that’s mostly what I watch. I’d love to see more personal responsibility taken, more agency in characters, more equality. And I’ll be happy to say when I see it (like pointing out the not-bad way they handled a trans character in Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t as a joke, and it wasn’t as a scandal. It was as a person).

    People want a lot of progress right away. And some of it can happen, but a lot of it can’t. It takes time for attitudes to change, for those whose attitudes won’t change to die off, and for society overall to come around. But really it generally does. And the way we critique things helps drive that.

    • #13 by Reiseng on August 21, 2016 - 12:14 am

      Yeah, I should have mentioned it in the post, I do think fiction is fiction and I am pretty cool with liking stuff in fiction.

      And yeah, I think slowly critiquing stuff does help drive change. I’m just a goof who takes it personally sometimes though in practice you probably shouldn’t. -_’

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