An Overarching Methodology Behind Anime and Manga Appreciation: a Reflection

Yotsuba!_v01_c05_p29

I feel younger every day. Seriously. I turned 32 half a year ago, but I feel like a fan a quarter my age. When I was 8 years old, the first run of SDF-Macross was still showing on local TV, and was totally in love with it. As I write this, I feel like that same kid like I’ve never felt in a long time. I mean, I’m writing about anime and manga as an adult, a husband and soon-to-be-father. How wonderful is that? Sure, my writing has a tremendous amount of sophistry (read: indulgent reasoning) but I promise you that a lot of the time, the spirit behind the work is burning youth.

I know a good number of mature (as they see themselves) anime and manga fans bristle at the pervasive notion that cartoons and comics are for kids. I sympathize with their discomfort, truly. I posit that it is the nature of adolescence to wish itself to be taken seriously, and with that, their own pervasive notion that kids aren’t or shouldn’t be taken seriously. I was there too, and have held that attitude well into my 20s. Well, try to think of it this way: many of the creators of our favorite manga and anime, write from their childhood — the experience of their childhood. It’s as if they’re writing a love letter to their younger selves. Yes, I shall indulge myself, they’re remembering love.

One does not care to acknowledge the mistakes of one’s youth.

–Char Aznable

There’s this point in Bakuman when Mashiro, the struggling would-be mangaka was troubled at not being able to create a manga character that readers of Shounen Jump would love. He thought about it and realized that many of his rivals were very good at drawing at an early age, just like he was; and that what all of them made up at the time were lots and lots of characters. He was sure that at least one of those characters was someone he truly loved, and got really pumped about when he was a kid. Wisely, he dug up his old sketchbooks and thought of a manga based on that character.

I thought about this real hard. I thought about shows like Space Runaway Ideon, and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, as well as End of Evangelion, and The Sky Crawlers. I thought about Grave of the Fireflies and Millenium Actress. I thought about Shigurui and I thought about Macross Plus. These shows not only have very mature themes, but also the storytelling and execution is very sophisticated. How can these shows be for kids? They aren’t, in terms of marketing and demographics I suppose. However, I couldn’t deny how they made me felt.

When watching something thought-provoking and mature, especially when it seems so brilliant, the very moment of discovery… when I ‘get it,’ I’m a kid all over again. It’s like being able to lace my shoes for the first time. It’s like discovering balance on a bicycle. It’s like building a robot out of Lego™ bricks. WOW! The A/T Field is also our EGO, the psychological barrier to true or perfect empathy with others? Holy smokes! Evangelion is sooo awesome! (I was 26 when I saw Evangelion in full LOL)

Then I thought about other shows… shows like Kamen no Maid Guy and Oruchuban Ebichu. I thought about shows like Golden Boy and Hatsukoi Limited. I think had I seen these shows at an 8 year old, it’d have been hit-or-miss. Ebichu and Hatsukoi Limited would’ve bored me due to the fanservice often going over my head and how a lot of the comedy and drama would not have been relevant. But for the others, I would’ve laughed my ass off. Kids have crude ideas about sex and I was no different. It would’ve been funny, though not as funny as an awesome guy in a maid’s uniform, and a hotblooded bicycle rider making the world a better place one hot girl at a time. Nonetheless, I probably would’ve tried my damned best to enjoy myself watching them.

I know that manga and anime aren’t just for kids. But is it so bad for them to be perceived as for children’s consumption given how these creators are probably at times (perhaps not often) like kids in a sandbox creating universes with rocks and dirt? Al Izuruha in Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket had to give up something beautiful. The thing is, it was wrenched from him! We, however are acting like we want to throw it away.

I think civilizations, even the great ones were built by telling stories — tall tales and epics, transmitted orally from generation to generation. Stories are great for this, precisely because kids can flat out enjoy them at a very young age. Stories have become primary methodology of education. It’s not that really different now. We have enormous variation in terms of media, but stories perform many of the same purposes: to educate the listener/reader/viewer in language and culture, and to be entertaining while doing so. It’s all fine and dandy to wish for anime and manga to be given the kind of respect given to ‘art,’ to film and sometimes television. I just don’t think that the notion that anime and manga are for kids is necessarily bad, or wrong.

So how does this work in my practice of media appreciation? Well, the WRL blog is my primary example. All the stuff here, from the images, the slideshows, the theoretical and philosophical references, my friends and family… they’re the stuff in my sandbox. I’ve written 3,000 word posts on the phenomenology of language in Eureka SeveN, and 4,000 word posts on sheer mecha faggotry. It’s all play. It’s all games. And I’ve learned that the best way to have fun in games is to play full out and uninhibited.

This perhaps explains the rarity of reviews in the site. I may talk about a show or manga without spoilers, but the purpose is to recommend or endorse the work, not to point out its merits and flaws to be of service of would-be consumers on the fence about it. The game is not to be right about something, but rather to solicit discussion among playmates. Hence, the rarity of coclusions. It’s not as fun for me to show people how right I am, and how wrong others are. Is K-ON! good? Bad? I care less about the consensus, only that I enjoyed it (I must have cancer), and I don’t mind talking about Yui’s retard moe as possibly (gasp) inspiring! You see, THIS BLOG IS MY BUDOKAN!

Omake:Who are my heroes?

macross 7 basara mylene in concert

Nekki Basara, Macross 7: He’s been my avatar ever since I started blogging. He’s someone who just gets so much out of life. He’s not someone who asks for little and is happy with whatever he has. No, I’m not into asceticsm. I’m more for indulgence and excess. It’s just that Basara demands something very specific, stated plainly in his battle-cry:

LISTEN TO MY SONG!

aria athena manga vol 8 cover

Athena Glory, Aria: At first I thought I’d put Mizunashi Akari here, but I realize that Athena shares some of Akari’s qualities (not just the ditziness), though perhaps not quite as attuned to wonder — but then again, who is?! But yes, a predisposition to enjoy wonder, to expect to find it and yet remain surprised when it shows, and a trollish spirit Akari could never  have, yes Athena is glorious.

yotsuba cat stick

Koiwai Yotsuba, Yotsubato!: Out of control and delightfully charming. She is a child’s child, free and fully self-expressed — an idealization of how I want to be. Her imperative: Enjoy everything! Soooo compelling for me!

Further Reading

Technical concept of ‘remembering love’ [->]

The image of anime is for kids [->]

Blogging anime is FUN [->]

…especially if you play with someone you love [->]

Stupendously long post on philosophy of language in Eureka SeveN [->]

Even longer piece of fiery mecha faggotry (Gundam x Macross) [->]

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, fanboy, meta and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to An Overarching Methodology Behind Anime and Manga Appreciation: a Reflection

  1. lelangir says:

    So you’re saying that the methodology of the story is to pass on knowledge? Maybe it’s a bit more meta than that. Perhaps in some cases, it’s not that you directly learn from the story itself, but you step back and reflect on the process of learning itself – it’s kind of meta, if you will.

    Generally, that’s how fandom propagates itself, I think. Fandom, being a conscious, aware, “they took the red pill” section of the entire fan base, places more value on the meta-methodology of stories than the methodology of stories themselves. You addressed this directly: what makes a fan is what they get out of the story, but what makes a fandom is how it is critical of itself (i.e. _____ is cancer, etc.).

    Yet speaking directly of and to anime itself forms the “base” of all fan and fandom discourse.

    And, oh, I like teh Yui ’cause she’s soOoo00oOOo kawaii yo~

    • ghostlightning says:

      I may have been remiss to imply that the purpose of the story is limited to passing on knowledge (of language and culture). I do feel that the process you shared, the indirect learning via the reflection on the process of learning is spot on, only that it’s a ‘mature’ way of doing things, insofar as meta can be thought of as advanced or mature.

      As an 8 year old I certainly wasn’t able to reflect on such things; it took a university education for me to begin to do this.

      Your take on fandom, the ‘self-aware’ body is interesting to me. Observing my own behavior as a Macross and mecha fanboy in general I feel that it is spot on. I have made various commentary on the behavior of fans beyond this post, and I remain fascinated by the behavior of the Gundam fandom in particular (all of which I sought to do without taking myself out of the equation as a member of such fandoms).

      Re liking Yui… *BROFIST*

  2. Pontifus says:

    All I can really say is that this post is RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. I mean everyone should read it; it’s one of those posts. So damn apt.

    Alright, I guess I can say a little more. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something for the sheer wonder and spectacle of it, says I. In fact, there’s a lot of lofty critical precedent for doing so, and there has been since the beginning of lofty criticism. I honestly think people who are “intellectual” about stories all the time are knowingly boring the hell out of themselves for the sake of maintaining an image. Without the visceral, you’re just doing it wrong.

    tl;dr reason and emotion GATTAI

    Stories have become primary methodology of education. It’s not that really different now. We have enormous variation in terms of media, but stories perform many of the same purposes: to educate the listener/reader/viewer in language and culture, and to be entertaining while doing so.

    Yeah, I remember Plato being sort of nervous about that. Poor guy.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thank you. In recent weeks there’s all this noise about Haruhi and K-ON! that I admit, got to me. It isn’t just the trolling, but also the very idea that one has to have a highly learned defense for appreciating these shows. That not having this level of appreciation makes the fan a lesser consumer does not sit well with me.

      I want to make it clear though that I’m not presenting my methodology as the pinnacle of media appreciation. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone. All I’m saying that there is value in seeing things this way and please try it on, see if it fits.

      • animekritik says:

        But you know, the trolling and the sophisticated attacks and defenses are a source of enjoyment for a lot of people, so in a sense they are simply enhancing the pleasure they derive from the show. What’s more pleasurable than thinking you’re superior to others? (besides sex and eclairs, I mean.)

        • ghostlightning says:

          Well, you could think that you’re better than me lol ^_^

          I won’t take that pleasure away from you or anyone, though I doubt that there are that many people who a) truly enjoy it, and b) are really that sophisticated.

          • animekritik says:

            It doesn’t take one to be sophisticated per se, just to believe that they are sophisticated (which is a much larger field of people).

            On enjoying being grumpy, see The Grinch. I think he derived pleasure out of being what he was :)

      • TheBigN says:

        “Thank you. In recent weeks there’s all this noise about Haruhi and K-ON! that I admit, got to me. It isn’t just the trolling, but also the very idea that one has to have a highly learned defense for appreciating these shows. That not having this level of appreciation makes the fan a lesser consumer does not sit well with me.”

        Basically my thoughts on the matter. :P

  3. Pingback: Discourse, Fandom, Methodology | Super Fanicom

  4. Ryan A says:

    I know a good number of mature (as they see themselves) anime and manga fans bristle at the pervasive notion that cartoons and comics are for kids. I sympathize with their discomfort, truly.

    It’s good, since we allow ourselves to lose what makes us kids. No one ever said that being a child and being an adult mustn’t be a duality, at least not in my book. We simply have our moments is all…

    The amazing thing is, most of these things are created by “non-children” and it’s noticeable. When we connect with them, it’s not simply “being childish”, rather I like to think it’s being true, or intimate with one’s self, and simultaneously acknowledging the similar perspective which allowed such a work to be created.

    Personally, the distinction between child and adult continues to diverge. Becoming an adult is not the same thing as forgetting we are all children [, and always will be].

    Enjoyed it :)

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks. I’ve been told a few times of the distinction of childish and child-like, where the latter is the one that is attuned to wonder and joy. I don’t think we ever truly lose it, only that we forget sometimes that we have it and how awesome it is to revel in it.

  5. Tom says:

    Great post, but there is one thing I am not sure about. A work of art that inspires awe and epiphanies and a work created for kids are two very different things. There are anime for every possible age demographic. The more juvenile ones are looked upon as being lesser by more ‘mature’ fans because they are often lacking-lacking in complexity. This lack could be in the characters, plot, action, art and several other categories. Works designed for younger viewers can skate with more shoddy planning and production as long as they hit the right notes to be popular with kids. Look at some of the big import titles of the 90’s: Pokemon, Sailor Moon, DBZ. They can have simple characters, repetitive episodic plots, simple art, a general lack of animation, and it’s all good.
    That is the issue some fans take with the level of maturity in anime and manga.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Oh I don’t disagree, but then again there’s Bambi, and My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away, and Kiki’s Delivery Service, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Toy Story 2, and Wall-E, and the aforementioned Yotsuba&!.

      I think the danger is that we think that a work designed for a specific purpose or demographic is generically incapable of complexity, depth, or greatness.

      I too can expect little and yet come away floored. And these surprises really really feel good.

      • tom says:

        It’s normal to generalize based on the evidence. We can expect MOST children’s shows to be more simple and to cut corners more. We can expect most manga adaptations to diverge from the plot of the original manga at some point. We can expect that if there is an animated movie at the theater these days it’s CG(and probably 3D).
        It can be dangerous to have expectations, because when they are not met we feel disappointed. Conversely, we are pleased when our expectations are exceeded.
        Also, I thought we were talking about TV shows and not movies. Films have to cater more to the parents also, so they must be visually refined and include some of those double meanings or some sort of additions to justify their ticket purchase.

        P.S. I saw Walle and I don’t understand why it was supposed to be so great. What’s the deal? Does it play on sentimentalities that my family does not have or something?

        • ghostlightning says:

          Well, if we are going to talk about generalizations, we can expect that 80% of shows will disappoint us. Our satisfaction from our hobby is derived from 20% of the subjects we sample.

          I don’t see a lot of meaning to be derived from the generalization. As I’ve said in the previous post, I think it’s fair to expect that everyone excretes crap just as great things can be done by anyone who does so.

          Well, looking at your concerns above — it would seem that an ‘adult’ work would be determined by its production values… with ‘kids’ being easier to please. I saw a lot of Mickey and Donald/Chip n’ Dale/Goofy/Pluto stuff on TV on saturday mornings, I saw a fair bit of Dexter’s Laboratory, and Batman the Animated Series (back in the day)… production values are pretty high being TV series.

          Re: Wall-e, it’s technically superb… it’s work on exposition is stunning: the first hour of the film contained zero dialogue. It communicates a set of concerns without being heavy handed and preachy, it’s visually astounding, and mighty heartwarming, etc etc

          Don’t feel bad that you don’t get it. It happens sometimes. I’m a big fan of the Gunam franchise now, but I dropped almost 10 shows before I started liking it, and I had to rewatch quite a few to get why it’s awesome.

  6. gloval says:

    Excellent post again. You may want to read this entry again after, say, your baby is born, or you’ve raised your kid(s) for five years.

    I’d like to share with you my “The A/T Field is also our EGO” moment with K-On! You see, when we think of the stereotypical story of a band, we’d expect it to have sex, drugs and rock n roll. Well, it’s also there in K-On!, we just have to make the necessary substitutions:

    moe = sex
    cake and tea = drugs and alcohol
    fuwa fuwa time = rock n roll

    This has some lulzy/horrible implications for the characters, but I’ll spare you that part of the analysis. And yes, part of my enjoyment with K-On! involved the fan reactions.

  7. Archaeon says:

    LMAO ghostlightning. Nice article you’ve written there. On the subject of stories, you may want to look into what lies behind even the most well known fairy tales, as they’re effectively lessons for children to learn. One has to remember that for the majority of humanity’s sojourn on this planet it has, for the most part, been illiterate (in a sense – I’ll explain why later).

    Because of this, and because of the often primitive understanding of the world (by the general populace that is – and only in certain aspects surprisingly enough), certain lessons needed to be made “attractive” to children – often involving blood and death in some manner. These lessons were needed for them to survive, grow, and produce offspring, but were also necessary for teaching them the basics of morality amongst other things. Eventually the blood was all but removed from these tales, and what was left was a highly sanitised – dare I say “Disney-esque” – version, with barely any substance.

    In truth, people in older times were far more “in tune” with the world than we are now. We may consider ourselves to be “educated”, but all that really means is that we’ve managed to memorize this and that in order to pass an exam. Other than that, it’s fairly useless information (unless you’re working in the field you studied for).

    In terms of anime and manga, if you strip away all the shiny stuff (mechas, fanservice, etc), and simply examine in the baldest terms, then you get more of a sense of what the whole point of the series is. Aside from the variations on a given theme, what we most often find is that one show will be more relatable to us than another, even though the two may essentially be the same. There are a number of factors in this decision making process, but the primary one is “exposure” – how close is it to the first “something” that I actually enjoyed, be it in terms of character design, plot, etc.

    Unfortunately, this is an unconscious occurence for the majority of people, and is the main reason why rabid fan appreciation occurs with specific shows. If you ask one of the wild-eyed worshippers what they liked prior to watching/ reading a given series, you’ll often find a very clear progression along a specific theme.

    This doesn’t mean that one can’t objectively appreciate popular media though. It just means that we has to be aware of how our perceptions are often biased from the get-go, so we have to try that little bit harder to be truly critical.

    Oh, and kudos on picking Athena over Akari. And you may want to have a read of the following two books by Marina Warner:

    From the Beast to the Blonde
    No Go The Bogeyman

    Both deal with fairy tales, and how they have become far removed from what they originally were. You can apply the same principles to anime and manga as well.

    • ghostlightning says:

      In truth, people in older times were far more “in tune” with the world than we are now. We may consider ourselves to be “educated”, but all that really means is that we’ve managed to memorize this and that in order to pass an exam. Other than that, it’s fairly useless information (unless you’re working in the field you studied for).

      I’ll say that the people in older times were in tune to their world, but I don’t think that we are necessarily out of tune with ours. It’s very very easy to romanticize the past, no matter how distant. Tolkien does this shamelessly. Our world and times are very different in the sense that there are a lot of songs to tune into. And we are in tune with the music that describe our world best (as we experience it).

      I for one cannot discount the probabilities that there are those in the past that got their education by rote. Physical skills are learned by rote: drills and repetition, drills and repetition. Mind you this is not a defense of the current educational system, only a moderate stance on perhaps an unnecessary vilification of modernity.

      In terms of anime and manga, if you strip away all the shiny stuff (mechas, fanservice, etc), and simply examine in the baldest terms, then you get more of a sense of what the whole point of the series is. Aside from the variations on a given theme, what we most often find is that one show will be more relatable to us than another, even though the two may essentially be the same. There are a number of factors in this decision making process, but the primary one is “exposure” – how close is it to the first “something” that I actually enjoyed, be it in terms of character design, plot, etc.

      I tend to favor a reader-response orientation, that is – a narrative work is less a message to decode but more like a plaything to mess around with. The ‘point’ of a work can be anything that I come up with in my interaction with it. It may not be the consensus, it may not be the intention of the authors, but it is no less valid. After all, the moment I experience it — the experience is mine. I may choose to share it and I often do, but it is contingent to many things.

      The core themes and plot structures of works can be very similar and ultimately possess little variation. It is often due to the particulars that I or others find the charm that makes us enjoy the work. Aircraft carriers for arms? NO WAY! Suddenly the attraction for SDF-Macross intensifies in my 8-year old self.

      Objective appreciation of media is a mystery for me, as it deals with the concept of absolute truths in works that to me, are determined more by consensus by majority of consumers, critics, etc. Such things are valid, sure. However their privileged position as the objective truth above all other interpretations is unnecessarily well, true.

      So I play with considerations and invitations, as opposed to the enforcing of points. Not to say that my way is the best way, only that it’s quite fun and enjoyable.

      Thank you for indulging me here, and for your book recommendations. I’ll try to look them up as they do seem very interesting.

      • kadian1364 says:

        “I tend to favor a reader-response orientation, that is – a narrative work is less a message to decode but more like a plaything to mess around with. The ‘point’ of a work can be anything that I come up with in my interaction with it. It may not be the consensus, it may not be the intention of the authors, but it is no less valid. After all, the moment I experience it — the experience is mine. I may choose to share it and I often do, but it is contingent to many things.”

        So much of what you say is like an eloquent idealization of my own thoughts and feelings. I often remember a particular scene in Angelic Layer, where Ichiro, the creator of the Angelic Layer game, is commenting on some of the Angels’ seemingly unfair ability to go into a hyper mode. He says he’s actually glad, he was able to create something where the players’ imaginations exceeded his own. An artist’s intention is well and good to understand, but by no means should that be the limit of a work’s meaning.

        • kadian1364 says:

          Then it dawn on me the paradoxical logic of a story telling me that the greater meanings of stories and art are up to me. So is that support for or against my original point??

          • ghostlightning says:

            I think that ‘greater’ meanings is a problematic qualification. Rather, your meanings of stories and art is up to you. Greater/lesser valuations are meaningless in absolute terms, but particularly (in your individual case) it could mean ‘more significant’/’less significant.’

            And yes, your example of Ichiro is a good one, precisely because it is a common example. I used to play video games a lot, and often I’d wonder (and sometimes complain) why a certain feature is missing, or why I couldn’t do a certain action (or why talking to townsfolk always result in the same stupid answer). Going to forums told me that many other gamers share similar sentiments.

            Some of these people, arguably ‘exceeded’ the developers imaginations.

      • Archaeon says:

        If you think of the oral traditions of say, the North American Indians, the various African tribes, the Aborigines in Australia, the numerous South American tribes, etc, etc, and add to this the various fables, myths, legends and such that have spawned from the Indo-Chinese and Mediterranean regions, then it becomes clear that the lessons needed to survive and live with each other were not taught in any “schools”. The world was one’s classroom in those times, and it was by “listening” to the world that one could survive.

        This doesn’t mean that times were better though. Being more “in tune” with nature doesn’t mean that one is automatically better off after all. Likewise, this also isn’t romanticizing the past, as my home country is very much a primitive backwater where things haven’t changed for almost a millenia. However, history has lessons to teach, and it’s only by looking at the past that we can figure out how to handle the present, and plan for the future – else were doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again. The unfortunate fact is that education today is woefully inadequate in teaching practicalities – not a villification of modernity, but simply a statement of fact. We essentially have an incomplete system where only theory and reference are taught, but how to live and survive are blatantly ignored – apparently you’re supposed to figure these things out yourself.

        The world does have a rythm, a pulse, a beat. We perceive this in different ways, but it has always, and will always be, one thing. We simply define it in terms of what we know and understand, which for us is a particular style or type of “music”. What lies behind it, at the core of all true artists, is an understanding of the world that the general populace cannot grasp unless it’s displayed in a manner they can understand. The fine line between genius and madness is very vague for those people who are often called “insane”, however they are often far more in tune with the pulse of the world than we are.

        There’s a simple trick to proving the pulse is always the same by the way – no matter how you perceive it. You could listen to any piece of music you want, and you may or may not like it. However, if you simply listen to a drum being played, it will always cause your heart to race. The drum, after all, is the oldest instrument in the world, and one of it’s original uses was to drive of spirits and such.

        Sorry if it seems like I’ve gone off track here, but there is a point to this :)

        In terms of manga and anime, it’s most often the case where the reader/viewer interprets the series in terms of how they want to view it. This is great from a purely subjective, “I-like-it-or-I-don’t”, perspective, however it doesn’t factor in what the creator was trying to say. Now, in the case of most series what the viewer/reader thinks and what the creator was trying to say may often be one and the same, however there are an increasing number of series nowadays where the viewer may be completely off the mark.

        Take Kurozuka for example. It had great action and animation, however most people didn’t like it because it was supposedly weak in terms of characters and plot. However, I watched the series and was immediately struck by how the most obvious point had been so readily missed – that it’s simply a “what if” tale.

        Another example of gross misunderstanding is Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou – one of the greatest manga works I’ve ever read. Much of the story is inferred, so it is up to the reader to put their own perspective on things. I found this to be a fascinating read as it was very evident what the mangaka was trying to achieve – yet once again many people miss the point completely, finding it boring, or not containing enough fanservice.

        The simple fact is that objective appreciation dealing in absolute truths is a common misconception, especially when dealing with manga and anime. These are works of popular culture and, just as novels and paintings fall under the category of “art”, so does manga and anime. True thespians are classed as artists in their own right, so why not voice actors? A true novelist can tell a story to set your imagination on fire, so why not a mangaka or comic writer – a picture paints a thousand words after all.

        Objective appreciation of a something in terms of manga and anime is simply stripping away all the self delusions, and trying to ascertain what the creator was trying to say in the baldest terms – nothing more than that. This isn’t a had and fast rule though, as there are numerous attempts at jumping on the bandwagon – K-On! being a great example of this. Whilst I enjoyed the series and the manga, it was very much in a “no-brain” way. As far as I can see, it’s and attempt not only to capitalise on the “moe” phenomenon, but two very specific versions of it – the concert scene from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, and the “Seinfeld” like quality of Lucky Star. Like so many recent manga and anime, it simply copies formulae that are known to be popular, without ever trying to be anything more. However, if you compare series like those to other, more individua, works created by the same mangaka/director, then it becomes obvious that artistic qualities are being restrained by money.

        Now it may seem like I’m arguing against myself here, however both things are actually true. For the majority of anime and manga, there isn’t really a need for anything other than viewer appreciation, however for some works, the need for objective appreciation is a necessity. Aria is an example where objective appreciation works well, as many people thought the first and second series were simply direct extensions of each other – they weren’t. The first season introduced the characters and Neo Venezia, whilst the second introduced the world of Aqua. Thus, Origination could really show what the series had being driving at for so long. Most people who simply appreciate the series on a personal level never truly come to grips with this by themselves.

        Anyway, I ramble. I look forward to your next topic :)

        • ghostlightning says:

          Well, that was meaty.

          First, I get what you’re saying about education, attunement, schoolse, non-romancing the past/non-vilifying the present. I gotcha.

          Second, what you say about objective appreciation as a rigorous deconstruction (my word, not yours) of the text to ascertain authorial intent is only one way to do so.

          For me, authorial intent is not necessarily more important than other possible readings (which is not to say that it is unimportant.

          Here is a scenario that I get to observe now and then (non-factual, but rather a mashup of various discussions):

          R(eader)1: Aria is an idealization of human society with technology; an utopia, if you will.

          R2: No way. Neo Venezia itself isn’t free of strife, much less Aqua, much less Man-home. That’s so not the point of Aria. Rather, it’s a story of resilience to strife (no matter how subtly the strife is portrayed).

          [...]back and forth ensues, using very incisive reading and logic on the text with thorough examples[...]

          R3: Let’s just look at Amano’s interviews and see what he says about it.

          Amano: [not really what he said, I'M MAKING THIS UP] It is a portrayal of adolescence, only in reverse – where the grown-up state is a beatific, child-like state; both for the apprentice undines, and for Neo Venezia itself.

          Rs: nyoro~n

          Now, if the 2 arguing participants are highly rational and measured readers, and that their readings are not invalid, it becomes a problem how the point Amano claims to make is invisible.

          It is a problem because it is now reasonable to say that he wasn’t skilled enough to make it clear. Are we now prepared to say that “Amano = genius, while all his readers = incompetent/fail at reading?”

          Absurd.

          As far as I’m concerned, all three readings are valid. To make authorial intent more important is a subjective valuation.

          Otherwise, I won’t deny that there is a ‘least subjective’ way to appreciate, evaluate, and/or criticize a work. This too however, can become a matter of consensus and social construction. So I don’t make it my project to arrive at such a methodology, as it is not my preferred critical method.

          As to your point that a lot of viewer reactions are stated as objective/factual oblivious to their biases and what not, yes I totally agree. Only that, their biased opinions are valid nonetheless; only that I reject them often for my personal use.

  8. Baka-Raptor says:

    I see Athena not so much my hero as my colleague in the field of awesome. Her episodes were easily my favorites. I fear this comment is getting too long, so I’ll leave on this note: if Athena were to somehow appear in the real world, I’d propose to her on the spot.

  9. X10A_Freedom says:

    I saw some of your examples about sophisticated plots obviously not meant for kids – anything made by Ghibli isn’t “ordinary” anime because the production philosophy is just so different and Japanese culture has shaped their films as mainstream. I forgot which Ghibli film was the top grossing ever in Japan. But I digress, as I’m repeating Tom’s comments.

    I feel the way I appreciate anime does not match with most other people. I don’t know why I derive pleasure from it, and I sometimes find it a curse that I get positive utility out of this medium. Anime to me is a huge load of guilty pleasure. I’m not very public about it but I somehow find watching anime entertaining. Maybe it’s because I really miss my childhood days spent in Japan but it is a subtle, not definate feeling. The fact that I’m not after m0e or nudity also alienates me from the “community”. It is frustrating, but I keep watching, keep hiding from the stigma…

    Speaking of m0e, I do find K-ON! mildly amusing although I watch it because it’s a mix of:
    1. Slightly funny (but I much preferred Minami-Ke for comedy as I got reminded from the recent OVA.)
    2. My best friend likes it so I watch to have something to talk about.
    3. To kill time.

    I don’t derive appreciation from reading troll posts, let alone hundreds of legitimate ones! At the relatively civilised Animesuki forums, there are at least 150+ posts per episode of K-ON, and 250+ for Haruhi. I simply can’t be arsed to do all that reading! As for 4chan, /a/ (what the heck did this stand for?) – I can’t stand the pr0n and immaturity there anyway.

    Going back on topic, some adults yearn for their childhood, while some love the adult life. Again, it’s a matter of contradictory culture whereas the latter group is seen as “mainstream” and the former stigmatised.

    You mentioned anime may have been produced by adults with a child-element in their minds. Thus maybe, their works end up clicking with nostalgic minds.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Demographics wise, there is complexity in targeting a show. After all, the parents are the consumers of the products that sponsor the subject works. I am not that interested in presenting a clear-cut absolute categorization of which shows are 100% for kids and which are 100% for teens or 100% for adults.

      Even categories such as shounen, shoujo, and seinen are infallible. Each work may contain elements, or even easter eggs that will appeal outside to the core audience.

      With regards to your own anime appreciation, where does the guilt come from? Why feel guilt, or perhaps it’s partner emotion shame?

      The concept of the guilty pleasure is something I think about a lot, and I think taking pleasure in media is a strange form of guilt whose rational basis is worth questioning.

      For example, I certainly feel no guilt enjoying a silly show like Cromartie High School, but I may feel problematic when I find myself rooting for a character who make questionably moral decisions such as say, Lelouch Lamperouge, or Ikari Gendo [->]

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  11. omisyth says:

    This post makes me FUWA FUWA TAIMU.

  12. animelover says:

    another great post… ^^

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  19. X10A_Freedom says:

    I guess the guilt comes from “mainstream” ways of thinking. Watching multiple anime which airs during midnight timeslots is considered a little bit of a “weird” hobby afterall. I have to ask myself in a logical, “normal” manner…

    – Why the hell do I put up with “moe”?
    – Why the hell do I put up with blatent fanservice made for weirdos (Jap-Otaku)?
    – Why do I not enjoy those blatent fanservice which, even most “gaijin” anime fans enjoy?
    – Why can I not find something else as enjoyable as anime, but is more productive in the real world – like being a finance addict for instance?
    – Watching Jdrama instead would be a better way to maintain my Japanese, but I don’t find the usual live-action relaxing…WHY?

    Writing this, it seems my sense of shame is linked to some personal issues. As I said, I sometimes take my very soft spot for anime as a curse, I really do.

  20. ghostlightning says:

    While I can’t say that I’m a finance ‘addict’ but I practice finance in some form, and my friend and co-blogger is a financial engineer. We like finance lol.

    Your personal issues are valid, only that I don’t think they’re that powerful that they can stop you from enjoying fully. You can consider that these are value judgments that are not necessarily the ‘truth,’ but rather merely ways of thinking. It is your subscribing to them that allows the rl consequences. Basically, you’re more powerful than you give yourself credit for.

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