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.
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).
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.)
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).
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?”
“Even the harem fan-service?”
“well, uhh, you see I’m trash.”
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Thanks for reading.