If you follow me on twitter, you may have noted that I have a rather positive outlook on anime. My tweets about anime are mostly devoid of negative opinions and a significant portion of them are gut reactions to the tune of ‘kyaa’, ‘OMG’, ‘AMAZING’, and ‘I am dead’. Perhaps more importantly, I seem to enjoy most things I try. As an example, this season not only am I enjoying blockbusters like ACCA & Maidragon but also some low key, seemingly less popular stuff like Spiritpact and ēlDLIVE.
I wanted to take this chance to talk about how I arrived at this form of engagement because while the end result appears to be a simple, blissful buffoon, the process to get here was anything but trivial.
Note: This is a very selfish me oriented post, but is hopefully fluffy enough that no one will be rattled by it.
With respect to my general anime positivity, one of the main contributors is my 2016 new years resolution.
At the beginning of 2016, I resolved to ‘never tweet anything bad about a given anime’. This included simple statements like ‘this anime is bad’ to stuff like ‘ugh, my enjoyment plummets whenever this character is on screen’. Complete avoidance is probably impossible and I let a few structural critiques like ‘the pacing feels a bit too fast’ or ‘I’d have liked more episodes’ slip through (often with a feeling quantifier to soften the sentiment), but I think I’ve done a mostly decent job of sticking to it. Occasionally I regret not being able to make a good shittweet by slandering some poor anime, but all in all, I think it’s been pretty manageable!
But why would I come up with this silly rule in the first place? Well, it wasn’t completely arbitrary. I had been noticing for a while that other people’s negative tweets would affect my enjoyment of stuff. You could argue against me being such a baby, but one feels what they feel and often can’t really help it (I talk about that a little here).
I figured I didn’t want to ruin a possibly enjoyable anime for someone else (especially someone newer to anime and without a good understanding of what they like), so I tried to cut back on the anime burns.
I am not sure if I improved anyone’s online experience, but as a side-effect, I’ve definitely found myself enjoying anime more. When you livetweet near everything but constrain yourself to good moments, you end up looking harder for good stuff. I wouldn’t say I’ve become ignorant to the flaws present in stuff I watch, but that I’m far more likely to look past them and focus on stuff I like.
Liking a broader range of anime though is a harder thing to acquire and perhaps not so easily done by a tacky New Years resolution. I owe my wider appreciation of anime to my diverse set of friends and years of talking to them.
When you first start watching stuff, the immediate inclination is to declare anything you don’t like as bad. Over time, the fortunate, realize not everything they dislike is bad. It’s just just not made for them. If you are very lucky like me, you might even come to like stuff you originally disliked. If I had to jot down the stages of fandom, I went through, it might be something like this:
- I don’t like this. It is not good.
- I don’t like this. It is probably made for someone else.
- I don’t like this. I know x and y would like it though.
- haha, I bet x and y would love this.
- I like this.
2007 me for example, would find little enjoyment in Spiritpact’s homoerotic scenes, but after spending years in the midst of fujoshi/fudanshi friends, I enjoyed the fanservice a fair bit!
I mean, I might never be as enamored with those scenes as other folk, but being able to appreciate fanservice that isn’t catered to me, in at least some capacity has greatly improved my watching life.
Similarly, when I first started out, I barely saw any Mech shows, so I didn’t especially care for them. Now, half my twitter feed loves big robots and that love is infectious and has rubbed off on me. 2007 me would scoff at the silly robot the Macross transforms into, but 2016 me had his jaw hitting the floor when it first happened.
A good chunk of this is just growing older and coming to accept what I like more and being comfortable with other things (cough thirst for 2D characters cough) in general, but I definitely think hanging around a good set of diverse friends helped me.
Now, I am absolutely not advocating for anyone else to try and expand their taste. In fact, I hate telling people how they should enjoy their entertainment. But, I definitely think everyone should try to get past that first ‘I don’t like this, so it can’t be good’ step and reach that ‘I don’t like this, but maybe other people do’ stage. A significant amount of the anime critiques I see (not so much in my circle, but often mocked by my circle) are folk trying to justify not liking something with weak criticism.
It is perfectly fine to not like something, but delegating it as bad simply because you don’t like it is a mistake. So, at what point does something start to be bad and not just bad in your eyes? Well, that’s a much harder question and I don’t think I’m all that prepared to answer it. I think, having a tap on what others like and understanding how stuff can appeal to someone other than you is a step in the right direction though.
There are a fair few criticisms that are more ugh ‘objective’ ugh. Stuff like pacing or maybe bad production values is easier to generally agree upon. This criticism stuff isn’t easy and probably why Literary folk created things like literary lenses and other stuff. Amongst my group of friends, the popular mantra is that it is okay to like bad things. For my own internal viewpoint, I invert that popular belief. I like to think that if something is liked by someone, it is not bad.
Yeah, it is a shallow line of reasoning and you could probably sink it very easily, but it’s been useful to me, both with respect to my own taste and that of others, so I’m not going to change that any time soon.
I’ve been lucky in that my fandom journey has been pretty smooth sailing. I started liking anime and never really stopped. I had a few slowdowns here and there, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have never felt the need to dislike the medium as a whole. To anyone that frequently asks themselves what their taste is, or if their taste is any good or if it is simply boring, or other similar questions, don’t fret. I can’t say experience or maturity will answer either off those, but most of the confusion gets replaced with simple wonderment. Instead of “what do I like?” or “why do I like this?”, you start thinking “Oh, I like this, huh, nice!” and that’s lovely.