Anime is Serious Business Because Guilt is Serious Business

code geass suzaku cc lelouch children dominance

Guilt, yes guilt. Nobody wants to feel it. It implies one did something wrong, and is inferior to those who do otherwise. I was told once that “in matters of taste, there should be no disputes.” In anime and manga however (not to imply that it doesn’t occur elsewhere), taste is part of a social dominance game that’s played for high stakes: self-esteem in the internet.

Sure it sounds silly, and it is. But people do operate under the paradigm of taste. They accuse each other of having bad taste, and praise creative works for being ‘tasteful,’ as if the benchmark or touchstone for such can be taken for granted. The concern here is:

People will like certain shows. These shows make people enjoy themselves (feel good).

Obvious enough right? However, within any society there is a competition among thoughts and opinions. Darwinian thinking leads to the idea of among opinions, there is ‘survival’ of the fittest, and the fittest get to dominate — to become the most influential. Extend this to the internet, we face survival concerns of blogs and review sites. Dominant opinions gather most of the eyeballs (page views, subscribers, etc). These all come into play. More importantly, nobody wants to feel bad about liking a show.

macross vF-1J millia revoltechAn impulse buy that results in paying whatever a toy-seller is charging even if I knew how ‘limited edition’ doesn’t mean much when there aren’t a lot of buyers. I paid full price for this (twice as expensive) when I could have used the money for more useful/important things. Nonetheless my Revoltech Macross series is complete (for now). It’s one of my guilty pleasures.

Some considerations:

90% of anime and manga is crud (Sturgeon’s Revelation); or, 80% of the good stuff one gets out anime and manga comes from 20% of the examples (Pareto’s Principle, ‘The Law of the Vital Few’); take your pick. Either way, many shows people like will fall under the ‘not excellent’ spectrum of quality.

Most people won’t enjoy being identified with ‘bad’ taste. So with regards to liking anime/manga with questionable quality, a choice confronts the viewer:

  1. I accept that this work as flawed/bad/terrible and that my taste is flawed/bad/terrible; or,
  2. I reject the idea that the work is flawed/bad/terrible. Other people are wrong.

While I think that this is a false dichotomy… and an easily enough deconstructed binary, I posit that more often than not (even without statistics to back up my claim) this is the choice that presents itself first. This is the choice architecture that determines people’s behavior more than calm reflection and expression.

When people actually choose #1, or are ‘forced to’ due to overall consensus that a show is terrible (e.g. Akikan) they often play a card that allows them to pretend that their liking such a show does not reflect on their tastes at all. They categorize the show as a ‘guilty pleasure.’

gundam ms-06s zaku 2 char custom 20th anniversary editionBuying such an awesome kit at 70% off, then not building it myself, is another guilty pleasure. Not building a display case and letting it gather dust however, is just plain guilt.

This guilty pleasure concept, as applied to units of culture, interestingly enough, makes it so that the individual pleasuring himself with the subject work, never has to feel guilt. The show or manga somehow ‘doesn’t count.’ Personally, I don’t think people should feel any guilt for liking something with less than excellent values (that are subjective anyway). The whole business of guilty pleasure that is founded on relative quality of subject works is inauthentic.

It’s not as if that we are truly expected to only watch and enjoy the consensus masterpieces. It’s just that we often behave as if we are expected to, and that we impose this on others. How do we do this? We trash shows we don’t like (or expect others not to like!).  I remember how people used the guilty pleasure apology for continuing to watch Code Geass R2 despite the big-effort scathing commentary they put out after every episode.

People just can’t be with the idea that they can actually like bad shows without irony and defensiveness.

After all, there are those who are chomping at the bit to attack people’s tastes, to call people morons, or trash. Attacking shows, and calling them trash is just the set-up. It’s not difficult for me to imagine why people get so defensive. Look, popular shows get attacked; consensus ‘masterpieces’ get attacked. It’s really not surprising why shows like Kämpfer, or the Fall ’09 season, or hell the anime industry as it currently stands get attacked.

Furthermore, we identify ourselves with our tastes whether we like it or not. Picking lists of favorites is serious business. In a market of opinions where influence and eyeballs are the currency, our branding as fans, bloggers, critics, and connoisseurs is rather critical.

Nobody really wants to be accused of having poor taste, and this kind of guilt bothers people.

If I haven’t made it clear, I don’t subscribe to this kind of guilt. Quality, in terms of artistic and literary merit, are not my thing in terms of creating levels and hierarchies among works within culture. No, what I should rather say is I don’t like the idea of levels and hierarchies among cultural works period: for the dominance games that occur in the process of developing such, and the whole dominance faggerjackery that will occur when such hierarchies are made ‘official.’

I’m not saying that guilty pleasures don’t exist. Quite the contrary. I posit however, that guilt is a feeling from moral wrongness. While enjoying anime and manga can be a moral concern, it isn’t fundamentally so. If I lie, I feel guilty. If I cheat, I feel guilty. If I vote for a crook and elect her in office, I feel guilty.

When I think Ikari Gendo from Neon Genesis Evangelion is cool, I feel guilty. When I take pleasure in watching a child (Hitokiri Batoussai) murder swordsmen in a gruesome bloodbath I feel a little guilty. Reveling while hundreds of thousands of soldiers get blasted into space dust while watching a huge fleet battle in Legend of the Galactic Heroes yeah, can make me feel guilty. I don’t think about it too much, I play the guilty pleasure card and move on to the next show. Does this excuse me from the inauthenticity and hypocrisy of the whole guilty pleasure business? I don’t think so.

code geass fujoshi 4koma

Outside my core tastes, there are other pleasures that one can feel guilt from indulging; such as getting off on watching/reading female grade schoolers breastfeed each other [NSFW], or simply wishing certain characters to die for whatever reasons; help me think of others!

I feel that it is important to note how the guilty pleasures I identified aren’t media-specific, nor even genre-specific. I am very interested in identifying such examples. If you can share a few here in the comments, I would highly appreciate it.

Further Reading

Sturgeon’s Revelation [->]
Parteto’s Law of the Vital Few [->]
Chris Anderson’s Long Tail [->]
Branding the self within the context of anime and manga appreciation [->]
Guilty pleasures in WRL [->]
Context for the appreciation of anime that was never meant to be good (21stcenturydigitalboy 2009/10/21)
There’s a lot to like about digiboy’s post, but I think intent is not that easy to determine — and intent is the basis of his whole thesis. Anime time slots are contingencies rather than intent, IMO. After all, what creator wouldn’t want her show not to air on prime time. Hell, I found out that a shoujo show like Kimi ni Todoke airs at a time slot that’s allegedly usually patronized by (male) hardcore otaku. This could less have to do with the creators’ original intentions but has more to do with the business and concerns of broadcasting services. Point is, without quotes from the subject people concerned, it is extremely difficult to make arguments based on intention (that is if we are even certain interviewees are being straight with their respondents).
Shows people may likely feel shame for liking is an otaku’s secret (otou-san 2009/10/18)
KaeBoo builds my kits for me. Outsourcing works. Here’s my Turn A Gundam (KaeBoo 209/10/11)

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, Guilty Pleasures and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to Anime is Serious Business Because Guilt is Serious Business

  1. sdshamshel says:

    I’m with you in a number of ways. The big thing is that even if I like a show that’s poor in quality, I don’t believe that’s an indicator that I have poor taste. I don’t really subscribe to the standard definition of guilty pleasure either, as I think that sort of thinking derives from the idea that you should be ashamed of what you like, and that’s no way to live.

    I feel that “taste” is not an issue until people start to exert their opinions and ideas of what anime “should” be over others. It’s perfectly well and fine to be a fan of nothing but harem shows, but don’t complain about how LoGH for instance isn’t a harem show. Likewise, LoGH fans shouldn’t deride a harem show or harem fans just because Love Hina doesn’t involve complex galactic politics. The key is that you should be able to respect someone else’s taste even if you don’t agree with it.

    And as for your definition of guilty pleasure, I think what you’re getting at more is admiring a character for their ability as a character, or you’re getting caught in the thrill of the moment. That’s what fiction is, that’s what fiction does. In that respect, I think you have nothing to be guilty about.

    • I thought of Oguie herself, who did not indulge the inauthenticity of the guilty pleasure but instead went for outright denial. She fit (at least for a time) the description of a person who was very ashamed of what she likes, and Ohno and the rest did not think it was any way to live.

      Aside from the example of taste you mentioned, there is also this use of ‘tasteful’ in “a tasteful love scene” …I can think of the first episode of Aoi Bungaku, juxtaposed with ‘tasteless’ titillation that can be found in say, Bakemonogatari especially involving characters like Kanbaru, Nadeko, and Mayoi.

      Maybe Bakemonogatari is too well-liked to be considered tasteless, but I’m sure there are many substitutes (Golden Boy, Ranma 1/2, Kamen no Maid Guy).

      Thanks for your reassurance, it does concern me at times to identify with, or even root for villainous characters.

      • gwern says:

        It’s funny you mention _Golden Boy_. A few weeks ago a policeman came by, and my laptop happened to randomly pick a _Golden Boy_ AMV (http://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=37847); I had watched the series a few months earlier (expecting only a guilty pleasure, but to find that Kintaro is like a ’90s-era Vash the Stampede). It turned out that in the ’90s, he had watched GB, and had very fond memories of it despite not otherwise being an anime fan then or now. It was an unexpected commonality.

        • I watched GB yeeeears ago thanks to my friend who loved while he was in uni. Same guy who introduced me to Cowboy Bebop. Back then I still subscribed to the idea of guilty pleasures in the context of high vs low culture.

  2. Baka-Raptor says:

    1. I accept that this work as flawed/bad/terrible and that my taste is flawed/bad/terrible; or,
    2. I reject the idea that the work is flawed/bad/terrible. Other people are wrong.

    You’re right, definitely a false dichotomy. In many cases, agreeing with the critics that a show you is flawed/bad/terrible isn’t tantamount to agreeing that your taste is flawed/bad/terrible. When you acknowledge that a show you like is flawed/bad/terrible, you’re often suggesting that the good of the show outweighs the bad, at least in your mind. For example, I like Akikan, but I don’t like the animation, which is objectively shitty. I don’t particularly care for the premise, which you can’t quite say is objectively lame, but frankly, the argument for Akikan having a lame premise is a hell of a lot stronger than its counterargument. A lot of other stuff is stupid too, a subjective acknowledgment I share with the critics. But the main character cracks me up, and there’s a fair amount of comedy that’s good and creative. I value that so much in a series that all the negatives, while not forgiven, are somehow tolerable.

    Option #2 is what we’re seeing all the time these days from the “if you don’t like Show X, you’re watching it wrong” crowd. It’s stupid and annoying. I actually have plans to write about this (eventually), so I’ll just leave you with that preview and end the comment here.

    • sdshamshel says:

      I think there is such a thing as “watching it wrong,” but it’s not something you can pull out a guide for, check some things off, and go, “Yes I can see you’re watching this show wrong.”

      A recent example is when I see people saying that Renton and Eureka’s relationship in Eureka Seven develops too suddenly. What I learned though was a lot of people who accuse E7 of doing this tend to ignore or kind of let their attention glaze over whenever Eureka and Renton appear on-screen because they don’t like the two as characters all that much. That’s fine, to not be too fond of them, but a lot of their development is very subtle and very, very gradually and steadily throughout nearly every episode, and so if you ignore them whenever they appear, you’re missing out on of the core elements of the show.

      In that respect I think people are watching it “wrong,” not because they don’t like the show, but because they accuse the show of lacking something which it never did.

    • Your appreciation of Akikan is similar in some respects to my appreciation of Macross 7.

      I find interesting here is how do we then make allowances for older shows with very dated animation? Must we always now look for ‘redeeming’ elements in the work to justify our appreciation for them?

      Or, should we just qualify the animation we see as ‘good/bad for its time?’

      With regards to ‘watching a show the right way,’ I think that there is an optimal way to enjoy a show, but that it involves changing one’s tastes often, and at times that these changes/relaxation of standards may prove too much for us.

      Still, optimal way to enjoy the show doesn’t mean ‘right.’

      • Gowa says:

        Comparing Macross 7 with Akikan is actually dumber than judging it right away without watching the whole thing. Macross 7 sure is stupid enough, but a show about cans turning into girls and fighting each other to decide whether aluminium or steel cans are best is really too much stupidity for me to take. But who knows? It could receive the prize for “2009′s Best Anime”.

        • You’re insisting that there’s one ‘right’ way to compare the two shows? But yeah maybe there is such a huge gap of stupidity inaccessible to me — who’s only seen 2 episodes (thankfully).

  3. gaguri says:

    oh god that picture of CC <3

    Hmm I have so much to say about this post, where do I start…

    I guess I'm one of those who classify guilty pleasures as 'bad things' that I still enjoy. Whether it is bad or not, of course, is my own subjective judgement. For example, I think KFC is bad because it's not healthy for you, but I still enjoy it because it's tasty. I don't have too much shows that I can call guilty pleasures because if I at least enjoys it and am entertained by it, then it's 'good 'in a way, right? But some guilty pleasures include, hmm, Kyou no gou ni and Railgun? Umineko used to be, but I'm starting to dislike it, so it's not really a 'pleasure' anymore.

    The thing is I don't use guilty pleasure as a card to defend my taste. Watching them definitely count, and those who know me know that lighter and more fluffy series are part of my watching. But I don't think that makes me a person of poor taste. And I don't think there's that much people who watch ONLY high art stuff. I remember Wabisabi from Iwa ni Hana talk about Haruhi, Ouran and Samurai Champloo quite a bit before too. Obviously she was talking about more esoteric stuffs in those anime (i.e. interesting concept of god in haruhi, deliberate blankness in samurai champloo, etc), but I doubt those were the only things she was interested in (I'm only speculating of course). Likewise, like you say, I may be avoiding to talk about lighter series because of the kind of 'brand' I want for my blog.

    And I don't think you should be feeling guilty about liking Gendo or getting excited over people getting blown up in LoGH. I attribute those feelings more to what anime does, not how you are as a person (i.e. who enjoys people getting killed lol).

    • The food analogy doesn’t fit I think. There are tangible consequences to eating bad food. There aren’t any for enjoying ‘bad’ shows — unless we accept the idea that it ruins our taste or makes us stupid (which I don’t think as necessarily true).

      Not using the guilty pleasure card is a good move; it makes you authentic, no matter what brand you want to build for your blog. I like Lucky Star a great deal, but I don’t find myself blogging it — only for the reason that I don’t have much to say, not because I want to keep my ‘brand’ mecha-centric. (FYI I have been attacked by mecha fans for liking shows like Haruhi and Lucky Star).

      As for rooting for the evil character, or enjoying displays of gratuitous violence… I don’t think I’ve made up my mind about it. I’m sure there’s an easy rationalization, but this is a theme I want to continue exploring.

      • gaguri says:

        Mmm maybe it’s all difference in opinion what is a tangible consequence? For example, while ‘intelligent’ shows like Kino’s Journey help me look at human nature in different way, and shows like Aria heals me, and artistic shows burst my craving for creativity, it’s arguable that giggling at high school girls fondling each other’s breasts is not probably the healthiest thing to improve my maturity, or intelligence…or whatever, lol. I say it’s arguable because for some viewers, watching such cliched and ‘bad’ shows may help them relieve stress from work, or etc etc. while some may seem them as ultimately waste of time, even if they find maybe something funny out of it.

        Anyway, one thing I should mention is that, like Animekritik says guilt exists, and there are things I enjoy but still feel guilty about (such as playing starcraft with kr guys when I have exams coming in days), and yet watching guilty pleasure doesn’t really make me feel guilty. So according to the definition, technically I have no guilty pleasure I suppose because I don’t feel guilty about anything I watch. Arguably the very act of watching anime can be considered guilty pleasure though. Probably I’ve been using the phrase wrong way all this time, but I never gave much thought about it until now thanks to your post (=D), so I’ll make sure to never use the word again, haha.

      • gaguri says:

        Oh, and I’m sure you have, but you should definitely ignore those fans who attack you for liking Lucky Star/Haruhi. Really boggles your mind doesn’t it…

        • It’s legitimately used when one is being irresponsible… like playing games or watching anime, or blogging, instead of doing necessary work, studying, or duties. Outside this context, nothing’s necessarily wrong about any such activity. The context is between the availability of ‘high’ quality shows and ‘low,’ is the enjoyment of the low at the expense of the high.

          And given the availability of high quality shows given the history of anime, it’s harder to ‘justify’ the enjoyment of the low. Unless, one considers the exploitation of digital fansubs to be a guilty pleasure in itself; but that’s another discussion altogether.

  4. Two thumbs up to this post. Yeah, feeling guilty about your pleasures is pointless. There is some kind of quote that comes to mind about how feeling guilty about murdering someone is a disservice to the person you murdered, because it implies that they died for no reason. I think this is similar. If you claim to feel guilty about a show you like, then your liking it as all is completely meaningless.

    I don’t think I have any ‘guilty pleasures.’ If I like a show, I like it for a reason, and it’s a reason I will stand up for. Besides, how could I of all people even have the nerve to feel guilty about anything?!

    @Baka-Raptor: >>Option #2 is what we’re seeing all the time these days from the “if you don’t like Show X, you’re watching it wrong” crowd.

    You are right, and especially in your above points about Akikan – there ARE shows that have genuinely terrible elements. If you say that Akikan has good animation, you truly are WRONG and it has nothing to do with your opinion. As such, even if you were to like the animation, you’d be in the wrong to say that someone else is incorrect for insulting it – only you should say ‘it sucks, but I like it.’ And in liking it in all it’s suckiness, you should feel no guilt.

    • I can’t say about murder… that’s a dangerous quote right there. However, I do agree to just be straight about what one likes, without being overly defensive about its supposed quality. There’s nothing terrible about enjoying less than excellent fare.

  5. animekritik says:

    The funny thing about guilt is it exists at all. And it does. Of course, as you say, the whole point of calling something a guilty pleasure is to somehow exorcise that guilt. Does it work? I’m not sure, up to a point maybe.

    Raptor and Digi are suggesting that there are certain objective factors beyond taste (animation quality, maybe even plot construction). And then if you like it, then it’s for another reason like the characters.. But could a person exist that actually enjoyed what experts consider “crappy animation”? Would that person then have a bad taste?

    Re: In my case as a blogger my ultimate brand is myself. Therefore, if I exclude a show or 2 to protect my “brand” I’m in fact crippling it, because I’m not giving you the whole picture. The whole picture is myself and everything that I like, after all!

    • As I said, it’s possible to like crappy animation and admit it’s crappy. Just don’t feel guilty about it. Why bother? Do you somehow have no right to like it because it is crappy?

      The animation in any given SHAFT anime sucks. And while most would say ‘the art style is great, however’ I will venture that i honestly enjoy the ANIMATION itself regardless of how much it sucks. And I feel no guilt about it.

      Does this mean I have bad taste? My only answer to that is ‘fuck taste’ as a concept altogether. FUCK IT IN THE ASS!!!

      • Ubiquitial says:

        The entire point of this is that taste is subjective. Thus it does not have an ass.

        So the phrase “FUCK IT IN THE ASS, WHICH I CONCEPTUALIZE IT HAVING” might be more appropriate.

      • sdshamshel says:

        The question is, can someone think unequivocally “crappy” animation is good? Like in the case of Akikan or, say, Musashi Gundou for example.

        One thing to consider is that we’re talking about animation quality as grown individuals, and so we can look at these shows and point out the lack of frames or when the show goes terribly off-model, or when things just look wrong. But then think back to when you were a kid. There’s probably a lot of shows you enjoyed and thought looked awesome all the time and never even noticed how poor the animation got.

        The first season or two of Batman: The Animated Series was like this, where for some episodes the animation didn’t look all too great, but the way the show conveyed the art-deco atmosphere of Batman, long before I knew what art-deco even was, just made even the low points look good to the young me. An even bigger example of this is King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, where all that armor and weaponry and magic and that one guy who shoots brick walls out of his chest made me think the show looked fantastic all the time. It was only when I revisited it as an adult that I realized how awkward the show could look. But 9 year old me didn’t care about that.

        It’s like somehow my mind was shaping the concepts presented in the show and creating an even greater image than what was actually there, and in a way I miss being able to do that unconsciously.

        • I have managed to master this technique, actually, though perhaps in a slightly different manner. I watch most anime streamed, and often times the quality is less than great. However, I am able to imagine what it would look like in higher quality, which is why I was making statements like ‘Eureka Seven has great animation’ even though I was watching it the first time on a shitty, shitty stream.

          I actually like watching shitty streams of shows with shitty animation so thaat I won’t think about it. When I see an unequivocally badass show like Souten Kouro, I hate being distracted by the horrid animation. That’s why I don’t mind so much watching shows like One Piece on a crappy stream where I am expecting the shittiness (though that’s a bad example because One Piece is so horribly animated that it’s visible no matter what >_<)

          • Shance says:

            I think the word “rewatching” is in order for the talk of the tastes. Sometimes beauty comes in the second time around, and it applies to how your taste goes and how it is perceived. Though sometimes, this doesn’t work no matter how many times you try it, it should open a possibility of watching the show regardless of taste and just for the sake of watching it. I watched Pantsu Witches (which ghostlightning here dropped for just 5 minutes flat), didn’t like it, and still convinced myself to watch it since I started on it. It spawned a lot of useless posts and RAEG, but I watched it nevertheless.

            Hiding the guilt is one thing, pretending to have it is another.

    • gaguri says:

      “Re: In my case as a blogger my ultimate brand is myself. Therefore, if I exclude a show or 2 to protect my “brand” I’m in fact crippling it, because I’m not giving you the whole picture. The whole picture is myself and everything that I like, after all!”

      Arghh what does that make me!! Shoo shoo out of my blog you guilty pleasures, must protect my precious shiny brand.

      • TheBigN says:

        Being shiny is overrated. :P

      • animekritik says:

        Well, all it means is that your brand is something Other than your pure, raw Self. I don’t know, maybe that’s a good thing :D

      • It’s HARD work. As I’ve responded to ak, my brand has been ‘compromised’ many times. I only try my best to remain true to my own self, my tastes, etc while trying to create interesting blog posts here on WRL.

        In my case, I try to brand via posting style and templates rather than taste in shows.

    • Oh there are trade-offs really. I can’t truly ‘serve’ the mecha fandom because the moment they see non-mecha, especially Haruhi and Lucky Star I lose all credibility. And this is no isolated instance.

      I would have been perfectly happy being a mecha anime blogger, or even just a Macross blogger, but I really couldn’t secure a beachhead within the fandom. I had to adjust greatly if I wanted any readership at all.

      Thus, my brand is ‘diluted,’ and I had to consider different spins on it (e.g. blog post style, templates, etc. to create more of a blogger brand than a fandom-based brand).

  6. This topic comes up from time-to-time (moreso recently?), and I’ve given a great deal of thought over the years. My conclusion basically boils down to the following:

    1. Sturgeon’s Revelation applies to a work’s objective qualities.

    2. One’s personal enjoyment is not merely a function of a show’s objective qualities.

    3. Personal enjoyment is ultimately more important than objective goodness.

    (And there are few conclusions that you could draw from this, the pointlessness of the “guilty pleasure” concept being one of them.)

    The most common cause for arguments tends to be tenet 2 above because people struggle with the dichotomy between their enjoyment and a show’s objective traits. People who like a show sometimes struggle to deal with its objective flaws, or sometimes disagree with the importance/value of said flaws; sort of an “I enjoy it, therefore it can’t be bad” opinion, in violation of tenet 2. People who dislike a show sometimes struggle to consider the way their own personal biases or feelings impact their “objectivity”, and tend to assume that their lack of enjoyment is *simply* or *entirely* due to “obvious” (or objective) problems, *also* in violation of tenet 2.

    There is a small grain of truth to the “you’re watching it wrong” argument, but only in the distant and abstract sense that a different person could watch the same material and have a different opinion or level of enjoyment. “You’re watching it wrong” is accusatory nonsense (and argumentative rhetoric), but “you’re seeing it from a different perspective” is a fairly self-evident truth. When two people watch the same show and come to opposite opinions, it is *not necessarily* the result of ignorance or a lack of critical thinking (important!); two reasonable people can have different opinions about the same subject and both be right in some cases and senses. This is the central point of tenet 2.

    So, all that said, when you come to the point where you realize that you have your own reasons for liking the shows that you like, and it ultimately doesn’t matter whether those reasons are common or unique, then you can see the concept of “guilty pleasure” for what it is: an excuse or rationalization. And further, when people can get over their constant need to “excuse” or “rationalize” their like or dislike of a show, I would suggest that it will probably lead to greater personal enjoyment (see Tenet 3). The most important thing, it seems to me, is understanding why you like or dislike what you do so that you can find more spend more time on the things you like, and less on the things you don’t. That’s all operating under the premise that enjoying anime and manga is more important than simply being able to argue about it, but I don’t necessarily pretend that’s the case for everyone.

    • Excellent.

      That’s all operating under the premise that enjoying anime and manga is more important than simply being able to argue about it, but I don’t necessarily pretend that’s the case for everyone.

      Perhaps most of the ‘noise’ is directly contributed by those who care more about arguing about anime, to preserve a personal image or brand, than actually enjoying the show… less directly by those who variably follow the lead of these individuals.

  7. Pingback: Favorites Lists, Guilty Pleasures, Branding, and ORE NO RUURU! « Fuzakenna!

  8. OGT says:

    The phrase “guilty pleasure” is the worst phrase in the English language and I exhort all of you to remove it from your vocabulary post-haste. If something is pleasurable to you, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. There are some things that you probably shouldn’t pleasure yourself with in public (double entendre intended), but certainly not because you feel guilty about enjoying it. One of my greatest pleasures is seeing other people relish the experience of (very obviously) enjoying something they love; one of my greatest pains is seeing other people relish the experience of hating something they dislike.

    I get the feeling, in the Western world especially, that “quality” in the case of fiction is defined by intelligence being inherent to the work. It appears to be of no use to be intelligent about fiction that is not considered “intelligent” since, as there is no intelligence inherent in the work, there is nothing to be intelligent about. This is patently ridiculous, of course.

    It follows, then, that you’re left with little recourse in this kind of environment: 1) and 2) above are literally all you have to work with for most of the time, and most of what you like. Simple enjoyment becomes an impossibility, and you must continually justify what you like (and what you do not like) along one of the three options given above.

    Like most things pertaining to fiction these days for me, there’s a G.K. Chesterton quote for this: “It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.” (read the whole essay/chapter/conclusion, it’s my personal pick-me-up). In other words, it’s what I’ve always believed: the surest sign of maturity is being able to see the world as a child again. Adolescence has a disturbing tendency to kill off curiosity and wonder.

    • I will agree to the extent that the term applies to culture. As gaguri said above, there are really bad things you enjoy, that you may legitimately feel guilty about (i.e. unhealthy food, immoderate consumption of such and alcohol, etc.).

      That aside, your points are persuasive.

      My personal enjoyment methodology (‘remembering love’) is an ambitious compound of mature appreciation (that which has the ability to look back across time) and that of a child experiencing wonder (a part of what I try to remember).

  9. Ningyo says:

    Yea, it would be a good idea to dust off those gunpla and other completed kits, GL ^^;
    And I really should’ve added that nsfw tag myself, eh >.>

    Well, your take on how guilt manifests itself in viewers and how they actually form different types that differentiate from one another is excellent.
    Still, guilt is present in people in different amounts – while this may seem obvious at first, theoretically one can have no guilt whatsoever. And true enough, this is a defining trait of certain psychopaths.

    I’d like to take a page out of DnD (lulz) and say that in my opinion, guilt is measured by ones deviation from the alignment of ‘true neutral’.
    Because, if one thinks about it, if anything and everything is taken at true face value, the existence of guilt in the beholder would be impossible, because morals would be society generated (thus ultimately making them a great aggregation of opinion) and diverging from true neutrality.
    Whereas even in an unruly alignment, such as chaotic neutral, there are still beliefs to uphold. Someone who is chaotic neutral may feel lower degrees of guilt for doing something they think they shouldn’t be doing, but inevitably its presence is plausible.

    Thus I wonder, pertaining your false dichotomy, what if a third option was introduced, where the viewer does not consider what anybody else thinks of it at all? It would then be impossible for guilt to stem from this option, no? Without opinion, does the Darwinian take on an individual’s views still stand?

    And if anyone asks, I’ve never played DnD in mai life >.>.

    • Hahaha Alas I, on the other hand, was very much into DnD. I think CN characters are nutjobs that are next to impossible to role-play.

      The dichotomy, being shown to be false opens up for third, fourth, etc options. I only argue that the dichotomy as stated presents itself first.

      The assumption in this speculation is that the viewer is part of a society, therefore is influenced and operates within such society’s mores. Perhaps it is possible to enjoy something in a vacuum, but this is rare, and changes immediately once the viewer discourses with another viewer.

  10. vendredi says:

    That beautiful Zaku, covered in dust like that – positively criminal. I really ought to speak for myself though, my models are gathering dust on the shelf as well, but gee, the dust on that gleaming plastic, it burns!

    Also, always astute observations on the blogging “brand”. I think one thing that does seem sort of implicit in the enjoyment of certain shows, as some above commentors have pointed to, is both the nostalgia factor, and also related, how “new” the experience is. sdshamshel notes that to a 9-year old, the animated Batman looks awesome – partly perhaps because of lack of perceptive ability; but also likely because a 9-year old has few other shows as a basis for comparison. As we watch more shows, we tend to appreciate shows in the framework of things we’ve already watched.

    It seems often, we think of “guilty pleasures” as somehow childish or inappropriate for our current level of sophistication (OGT above uses the term “intelligence inherent to a work” – I’m not sure if this captures every nuance necessary but I think it certainly goes a long way and is a very helpful rule of thumb). On the other hand, shows that are *too* sophisticated (or “too intelligent”, to use OGT’s wording) are often never categorized as guilty pleasures – we have no trouble rejecting them and admitting “I’m in over my head” – I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who would categorize heady stuff like Aoi Bungaku, or Trapeze as “guilty pleasure”, for example. This may be a contestable point, but that would seem to be the intuition.

    • Good stuff. This nebulous ‘intelligence inherent to a work’ does make for an interesting metric. I imagine it difficult to find someone who’d consider LotGH as a guilty pleasure, or Monster.

      I have really ceased purchasing model kits until I build the appropriate display cases.

  11. Shinmaru says:

    I think — or hope, at least — there comes a point in people’s lives where they are confident enough in their taste in whatever to abandon the concept of guilty pleasures altogether. People are so different and have so many different reasons for liking so many different things that the whole exercise of deciding what one should be proud of liking and what one should be guilty about liking is, well, stupid.

    For instance, I am watching Kampfer and making no bones about why I am watching it — the show is silly, trashy fun, and I like a silly, trashy show every once in a while where my brain can completely shut down for 24 minutes. (Particularly valuable now that I am working!) There are a hundred different reasons to dislike Kampfer, and if someone bitched at me about the series, well, I can’t say that I would argue back or defend the series all that much. It doesn’t mean that much to me; Kampfer is just a show I watch to fill up on some dumb, empty anime calories.

    • Well, it’s because of the Darwinian aspect. There is a dominance game… the prevalent opinion is influential and powerful, and at stake is ultimately attention, internet-friends, readers, subscribers, commenters, etc.

  12. gloval says:

    There’s also that thing about watching a trainwreck unfold. Ahh, School Days.

    I see you are aware of Kodomo no Jikan. I was writing something tl;dr but I became afraid of the NBI so yeah.

    • animekritik says:

      School Days a trainwreck? I thought, objectively speaking, that it was the best ending ever! Anyway, carry on…

      • BluEnigma says:

        It was the best _because_ it was a train wreck. One you saw coming from a mile away and were lead to believe that those trains deserved every bit of it.

  13. 2DT says:

    At the same time, though, declaring anything a “guilty pleasure” sometimes opens up whole new dimensions of interaction. I remember one of the most enjoyable conversations I ever had with anime fans in real life involved a passionate round-robin about how ridiculous Code Geass was. Yes, we all watched it after all… but the label encourages a different kind of discussion than otherwise, don’t you think? It’s a little more candid.

    • The fact that it opened new dimensions of interaction prove the inauthenticity. Candor was impossible otherwise since nobody wanted to be identified with being a fan of such a show.

  14. TheBigN says:

    This is why one of my views on anime fans is that we’re all masochists in some way. :P

    “Quite the contrary. I posit however, that guilt is a feeling from moral wrongness.”
    Reminds me of this post from Ask John, which addresses a different issue that I think is on the same vein as this one. Do we worry too much about how we’ll be seen by liking a show that tends to be “morally wrong” based on how society is? I think so. The “why we do it” is the important part though.

    • Yes I thought that article was a good read.

      The why we do it, the why we enjoy it, is rather important to me… even if only to know myself and remain consistent with my stated principles or promises.

  15. This post kind of reminds me of how my true pet peeve is being told by someone that I am wrong when there is room for debate as opposed to just being told that I am wrong about something that is an accepted fact. I subscribe to the theory of burden of proof when it comes to people trying to make an all or nothing arguments for or against a given show (or any topic for that matter) and will fact check the hell out of and turn over their arguments in order to see if they are completely 100% sound. Apparently some people find this annoying, but to that I say it’s smarter never to try and prove a theory like the myth of universal taste. :P

    Anyway I gave up using the term guilty pleasure quite a long time ago. I still have my tiers for what I choose to spend my time watching, but now it simply comes down to prioritizing what I feel like watching more at any given moment. Right now I’m not really watching much anime though. I’m mostly sticking to Let’s Plays off of the Something Awful forum and finishing up Stargate SG-1. I’ll admit that perhaps anime has lost it’s lustre to me for the time being as a viable passtime, but I’m sure I’ll get back to it soon enough when the shows I’m looking forward to finally start rolling out in 2010.

    • Tiers will happen. The thing to consider is that these are arbitrary and contingent rather than necessarily true and absolute.

      Afterr all, I don’t necessarily think mecha anime is of undisputable literary or cultural merit.

      I don’t have a problem with naming them my favorites though.

  16. X10A_Freedom says:

    I’ve had my run-ins with KnJ fans…

    For me, “guilty pleasure” is watching something which (in my opinion only!) contains totally immoral content (yes, this is totally subjective!). Bakemonogatari is a perfect example. I see fanservice, the extensive use of otaku fetishes, close to underaged nudity, violence, gore, plain “weirdness” and even more. I LOVE this show! I somehow got attracted to it after reading the ep03 post on this blog. The Senjougahara-flirting-with-Araragi scene seemed extremely interesting. Why, oh why, oh why did I decide to watch this? Even worse, why do I even enjoy, and want MORE of it?

    This is true “guilty pleasure” for me. I used to be an uptight person. 4 years of being a proper anime fan has corrupted my mind. Or made my testosterone balance “normal”.

    • This is what I am going for. I am by no means an ‘uptight’ person (particularly about sexuality, save for pedophilia), but I acknowledge that there are moral concerns in the context of experiencing the shows.

      I can’t really comment directly about the conclusions you make about your experience, only that I don’t find it useful to relate sexuality in a dichotomy of pure vs. corrupted.

    • Miha says:

      I want to echo what X10A_Freedom said. A few paragraphs into the article and I was already thinking “This looks like the biggest pile of window-dressing anime blogging crap I’ve read in a while” because guilt–in my case–only comes about when I watch something I feel I shouldn’t out of legitimate moral reasoning. For example, American Idol, it has its moments and the bashful “fandom” I frequent in I enjoy tremendously, yet I feel like I’m encouraging its type of train-wreck, lowest common denominator, crowd-pleaser productions just by watching the show. This is also the reason why I believe I was never a popular blogger back when I had my own blog – I wasn’t be comfortable feeling like a sell-out, i.e. employing common blogging practices.
      While reading the article, I was thinking of Umineko and why I enjoy it, despite being fully aware that it’s terrible in almost every objective way, as relentlessflame suggests. I enjoy the dialogues that revel in all of its pervertedness, chaos, and no sense of compliance or identity with real-world standards. But is Umineko a guilty pleasure of mine? I’m not sure. I don’t know if fueling its popularity is really such a bad thing, it most likely isn’t, for me personally it definitely is not – I don’t feel I’m being a hypocrite for watching it. Then there’s American Idol, or Gundam 00.

      • If you ‘own’ your reasons for liking a work, you see clearer that the guilt is an external force upon you as a viewer.

        The latter part of this post is an attempt to re-align guilty pleasure as a concept along moral grounds rather than high vs low culture considerations.

  17. *_*EPIC THREAD*_*

    So many awesome comments that alas, I’m too sick right now to respond to FML.

    I’ll get better tomorrow and I promise to add value to this discussion. Thank you.

  18. Gorilla says:

    Well I remember saying that Code Geass and Gundam 00 had plotholes, but were a lot of fun to watch. It’s not that it wasn’t true but I couldn’t completely understand it. Now I know that plotholes or if I were to phrase it differently accepting certain plot developments without thinking about them too much is an essential part of viewing and enjoying certain mecha shows. I was able to do it the first time I watched them but I had to justify it with the phrase “it’s a fun ride despite the plotholes”. I remember saying that in the end Gundam 00 became super robot, because of what Setsuna did. Having watched Gundam 0079,Zeta and Char’s Counterattack, I understand now that “magic” is a core element of Gundam. And I can certainly accept it for what it is, because I liked it in the first place. So I am not afraid to tell on the net that I liked 00. If somebody tells me that 00′s ending was shit I can always bring up CCA ending for back up.

    As for guilty pleasures I have not that many. My guilt doesn’t comes from loving certain shows but from not loving some shows that are getting praised a lot. I barely finished Flag, I struggle with Gankutsuou for half a year and I put Wolf’s Rain on hold.
    My latest guilt is that despite the praise I heard about Giant Robo(currently on episode 3), I am not enjoying it as much as I enjoyed Shin Mazinger or the Mazinkaiser OVA.

    • If you look hard enough you can find plotholes and sketchy writing in just about any anime because (and it’s taken me a surprisingly long time to figure this out) Japanese writers typically go with what looks good, what will illicit emotion and what will be marketable over what one would actually call expert, deep or creative writing. If you can learn to accept this as a normal part of everyday anime viewing though you can almost certainly nullify any negative effects that might have on you as a viewer.

      • I think it’s not that “Japanese writers are like that”, it’s that marketability is what determines the sort of stories that will get adapted and the way in which they’re presented. I’m sure that Japan that has no shortage of writers whose works are “expert, deep and creative”… but they’re not necessarily the stories that get selected for anime. And this is doubtless because they’ve learned through past experience that those sorts of stories aren’t necessarily the ones that people actually want to watch or buy.

        In other words, enjoyment trumps objective goodness in practice, because enjoyment is what people are most willing to pay for. Or, the things people think are important in a critical discussion/debate aren’t always the same things that determine what they buy. The usual dichotomy.

    • I wouldn’t feel too bad not getting moved by consensus masterpieces. It would be just as inauthentic to force yourself to like these shows just because others do.

      My experience with Gundam is similar to yours. Newtypes are such an important part of the franchise that I will end up hating too big a part of it if I insist on rejecting this element. Since I wasn’t inclined to reject it anymore since I like Gundam, I just made peace with all the magic and deus ex machina and I’m much much happier for it.

  19. Misu says:

    It isn’t guilt if you could care less what someone else thinks. Paving your own road, yessssssssss!

  20. shadow says:

    Wow, lots of reading through the post and comments before I finally got to the comment box at the bottom.

    I agree that one should not feel guilt for watching a “bad” show, because it is all subjective in the end. Guilt, to me, is a result of societal expectations and reactions. If one is outside the mainstream, they are ostracized and considered odd. Unless you find a community of outsiders, you’re stuck alone on the outside, which would go against what I believe is a human need for social interaction.

    I know that I feel a small amount of guilt when I come across a reputable blogger or reviewer that rips a show I enjoy, because I feel like my judgement was incorrect. This does not happen with an indivdual that I do not respect, but will happen if a large group (respected and unrespected people) decides to blast a show. However, I admit the guilt does dissipate if I find a concurring opinion. It relates to Baka-Raptor’s option #2, but I still feel it boils down to a societal factor. You feel guilt because what you enjoy is not accepted by the masses (which is sometimes mistaken for the loudest voices), but once you find a group that agrees, a sort of societal acceptance (even if not mainstream) alleviates doubts.

    • Yes, it is very social indeed; interestingly so… how guilt is alleviated when we find people who like the same show support each other.

      In any case, the inauthenticity occurs when one rationalizes the show as a guilty pleasure, as if it’s not supposed to count.

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  24. drmchsr0 says:

    [rant]

    The irony of this so-called “guilty pleasure” actually shows how horribly immature the entire fandom is.

    If it isn’t the hypocritical reviews of certain shows (a few famous names do pop up in my mind), it’s either the browbeating of some fans (like how most of us pooh-pooh Naruto and Bleach fans, TO PUT IT NICELY), or the horrid treatment of the fanbase by SOME PEOPLE.

    When a man is simply flamed just because he or she likes a certain show (even though “society”, as it were), or some idiot has to flame everyone else in his own retarded little manner just because he claims to have the moral high horse (or low horse, as it were) by proclaiming that he has better taste than most people, it shows how deep THAT SOCIETY is.

    And for bloody fuck’s sake, by going on those metrics, we’re more immature than FIVE-YEAR-OLDS. YES, FIVE-YEAR-OLDS.

    [/rant]

    If one can’t see the goodness in a work (even for things like KAMPFER, for example), how can we see the goodness of man (as little as it is in a human being)? How we see shows is a reflection, in a way, of how we see the world at large.

    There are many ways to see a work of fiction. Structure, wordplay, plot and execution are but a few of the metrics that are used to measure (and judge) a piece of fiction. Within the visual medium, there are even more metrics one can use. Shot composition, character design, scene flow, storyboarding and script, among other things, are but a few of the metrics one could use to objectively measure (and judge) a visual medium. To say that there is no intelligence in any given work of fiction is but a horrible lie, created by cynical critics who are bereft of wonder and can simply to be assumed to have shuffled off the creative coil, pushing up creative daisies, have joined the creative choir invisible, to blandly use and mangle several ways of saying someone has died.

    I mean, even Michael Bay’s Transformers, bereft of any sort of intelligence in screenplay save for how well can one market nostalgia and Megan Fox, one can simply appreciate the ridiculous explosions and the technical know-how to do so. Or, to go for a more palatable example, see how Kampfer realizes it’s horrible lack of intelligence by being self-aware.

    That, my friends, is a wonder all by itself. Miss it and I can safely say you’re beyond hope of ever seeing wonder in even the most obvious of awe-inspiring things, to say of how much wonder you can muster in a small blade of grass.

    • Well, it’s also about hierarchies. Just wait. At the end of this year you’ll have your best/worst lists and you’ll see all of what we talk about play out once again. The very nature of hierarchies is the dominance of the higher of the lower, and the ability to rank communicates an ability to dominate. It’s a good feeling, which is why we do it.

      A movie like Bayformers, costing OVER NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS and is the cumulative effort of hundreds of people, can be dismissed and ripped apart by some guy on a computer halfway around the planet. And that guy with a PC has an audience who will agree with him! This is power!

      • drmchsr0 says:

        ghosty: It’s less of “power” that it is “birds of a feather flock together”.

        Real power comes from being able to enjoy a show, no matter how bad it is, and then admitting that it has it’s virtues and flaws, rather than ripping it to shreds endlessly.

        I could go on about the theological perspective on dominance and all, but to keep it short: Man has a natural desire to dominate, like how animals naturally assert dominance. It’s completely natural, but man takes and twists this natural desire (which isn’t bad, btw) into something grotesque and sinister.

        I don’t know anything about numbers or laws or probabilities. All I know is how a human acts, thinks, and works (Again, from a theological perspective). And that’s how I see the entire issue.

        And let’s just say it’s not a good thing.

    • gloval says:

      THIS.

      Glad to find someone else able to like something from anything. I guess it’s easier to bash and reject than to like and accept. Or that it doesn’t attract attention.

  25. Gargron says:

    Can a taste be bad? Each person’s taste is his individually own, and if it happens two or more people’s preferences match they say to each other they have a ‘good taste’. So I wouldn’t take these things too serious.

    Oh, and guilty pleasure, I have read about it not so long ago mhhmhmhmh ^^

    • Essentially, no.

      Contingently, as it occurs in a social context, yes of course. Taste, mores, and the like are socially constructed. The individual who deviates from the norm may be considered to have ‘bad’ taste or be a ‘bad’ person, until such gets enough supporters to overturn the norm and establish a new one.

      The ‘bad’ now becomes the ‘good’ and the formerly good becomes either bad, or passe, etc.

  26. animewriter says:

    Yes, I’m guilty as charged with using the term “guilty pleasure”, my prime example of where I used this term was with Kanamemo. Yes, Kanamemo is not very good, loaded with tropes, and includes fanservice directed at the Otaku, but for some reasons which I tried to explain in a post why I really like this series.
    http://animewriter.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/when-the-wisdom-of-the-masses-fail-a-strange-thing-happened-to-me-while-watching-kanamemo-i-found-that-i-like-this-series/

    While I tend to agree with you on many points, IE; Sturgeon’s Revelation and Parteto’s Law of the Vital Few, I disagree with some of your below points.(sorry, I’m old and don’t know shit about using HTML in comments)

    “…., within any society there is a competition among thoughts and opinions. Darwinian thinking leads to the idea of among opinions, there is ’survival’ of the fittest, and the fittest get to dominate — to become the most influential. Extend this to the internet, we face survival concerns of blogs and review sites. Dominant opinions gather most of the eyeballs (page views, subscribers, etc). These all come into play. More importantly, nobody wants to feel bad about liking a show.”

    What do you mean by “influential”? Do you really mean that getting the most links, hits, page views = survival, or do you mean respected by and linked with other anime bloggers? If I look at my stats and gave my readers what they really like to read, I’d blog nothing but anime loaded with fanservice and moe, and could easily push hits and page views through the roof. But, on the other hand, I’m pleasantly surprised to see how many people have read my posts covering Candy Candy, Daddy Long Legs, TM 8.0, and Aoi Hana.

    • The first thing to ask here is that do you think Kanamemo ‘counts’ among the shows you like? The key inauthenticity here is that the term ‘guilty pleasure’ is it is used to exorcise one’s guilt (for liking something less than acceptable) instead of simply being upfront and saying you like this show.

      A personal example would be my relationship with Macross 7 (since you intend to go through the whole franchise you will understand the pain and awesomeness the show serves soon enough).

      Reading your review, I find no such cop-out or inauthenticity: in the face of critical failure of the show, it has the element that (family) almost always does something good for you and you stood up for it.

      Influence is harder to measure– but yes those statistics while not giving a complete picture do indicate influence (particularly linking). While there is a correlation between shows blogged and popularity of blog (IMO), the shows don’t make the blog popular by themselves — the opinion must be entertainingly popular too.

      Let’s look at Code Geass for example. Almost every blog panned it in its second season, also due to the bigger blogs doing so: DarkMirage, Jason Miao, THAT, etc. These blogs made their posts very entertaining while they ripped the show apart. This became a dominant style of snark, spawning many memes etc etc.

      On the other hand, you had Kaioshin who staunchly defended the show and was attacked, called names, etc etc. (note I am only commenting on the behavior of the fans, viewers, and bloggers; not on the content of their ‘criticism.’)

      Your case notwithstanding, if I remained only a Macross blogger I would not be enjoying this level of discussion. Had I not ventured out to Gundam I would not be benefiting from my biggest page view sources. This is what I mean by survival. As far as being an influential blogger in both Macross and Gundam, I don’t think I am that that at all, in the sense that I can influence how the fandoms think. If anything, I’ve enticed a few non-fans to try these franchises out. This is where I choose to make a contribution too.

      • What you bring up in this comment also opens up a whole other can of worms about what I like to call “uneven criticism” or “fake criticism” where the goal is simply to be 100% critical of one show all the time and just completely shit all over it with each entry for anything that comes to mind rather than to actually try to make a real argument about it’s merits, failings, aggravating moments, shining moments of awesome etc. that might actual be useful to someone. Jason Miao can be credited/blamed for starting that whole trend I think.

        I wouldn’t know why anybody would want to copy or apply that method for an extended period unless it’s mixed with consistent humour (see MST3K), but perhaps pondering it could make for a good post in the future don’t you think? Are there any merits to such an approach? What are the drawbacks that might be obvious and those that might not be as apparent.

        Perhaps though it just comes down to what is being demonstrated in the U.S right now with the whole health care issue. That being that it’s easier to whip people up into a furor by making up fake issues (Socialism/Trolling Companies), stretching the truth (Death Panels/Bringing Dead Characters Back To Life) and just generally being known and portrayed as the loudest voice on the block/voice of the people (Glen Beck/Sankaku Complex) then to try and make a realist argument like Barack Obama. Saying “Things aren’t going to get better over night, but I believe they can get better over time if we work together as a country” or, “OMG THEY’S BE TROLLIN’ US”, requires more effort to ponder and raises more questions than, “Holy shit Barack Obama is trying to ruin America and turn it into a socialist country” or “Maybe things don’t always happen the way they want them to or we wouldn’t have thought to write a story like this, but there’s still a lot to enjoy in our entertainment”.

        • O.o I can’t comment on Obama or US politics.

          Entertainment is what it is. I do think that people are genuinely entertained by these popular bloggers, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular. So if entertainment value is a merit, then there is merit.

          The drawback is the authenticity — at times the hate will be exaggerated, negative points will be exaggerated (positive points too), that the criticism is no longer useful as such; while remaining an entertaining read.

          Of course, this isn’t for everyone — only that to deny their merit or value is foolish as well.

          • I think a lot of them went well beyond the entertaining read into just plain old annoying blind outrage for the sake of outrage of the kind you see in those town hall meetings (again U.S Politics, which means this might be lost on some). Perhaps it’s just because it felt like everybody was trying to do the same thing with popular shows like Gundam 00 and Code Geass all at once that it felt so obnoxious and annoying (nobody likes to read the same angry uninformative stuff everywhere on the blogosphere do they?), but I’d swear it’s really just that somewhere along the line people forgot that what they were doing was perhaps meant to be all in good fun and instead it just became routine and looked more like lame schoolyard bullying instead.

            I think that sort of ball-breaking behaviour thing works better if the person or group being beat on is actually present or in a position to have some chance at defending themselves (In law it might be called Habeas Corpus and/or Audi Al Partem and in mentioning that I’ll be damned if I don’t believe the average person could stand to benefit from everyday knowledge of and application of the principles of modern justice, which is something we’ve talked about isn’t it?) or to even throw a little razzing back at the instigators. I guess that’s sort of why I stepped in as a proxy to play the staunch defender/serious blogging role on those two shows, though more than likely it was just a desire to play at the role of a public defender which I’ve always wanted to do. :P

            However I will say that I absolutely loved when Seiji Mizushima stepped up and said that people “criticizing” Gundam 00 would bash it anyway regardless of what he did as a director so they could basically just say whatever they want and he won’t give a shit nor feel guilty or ashamed about the job he was doing anymore. Along with the “2ch is an anus” comment from one of the Gainax founders over Gurren Lagann bashing I would say that was some good stuff lol.

            Here’s exactly what he said for posterity:

            Inteviewer: The creation of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 can be called a monumental project, as it is a continuation of the epochal Mobile Suit Gundam series, a series embraced by people ranging from 10 year olds to those in their 50s…

            Mizushima: Honestly, I was extremely happy (to become the series’ director). As I am in my early 40s, I was part of the generation that was brought up watching the original Mobile Suit Gundam series.

            Interviewer: I was not very familiar with the details of the Gundam franchise, but ever since entering the anime production business I’ve wanted to work on a Gundam show at least once. I think a lot of people (in the industry) feel the same way.

            Mizushima: Right now, it is an honor to be in charge of a Gundam series, but on the other hand it does also feel like putting one’s hands into the fire at times.

            Interviewer: Fire? What do you mean by that?

            Mizushima: Creating a new Gundam series entails a large “risk” for the creator. Since it is such a major title, the creative staff is not free to exercise much freedom in the show’s creation, and the staff must always be on their guard.

            Interviewer: Do you feel a lot of pressure from Gundam fans?

            Mizushima: We continuously hear from the fans things like “Gundam isn’t like that! This Gundam is no good!”

            Interviewer: I see. It must be a lot like in the automobile industry, where a big name company changes an old model and fans of the old model are distraught.

            Mizushima: Certainly the expectations are set very high for such a big property (like Gundam).

            Interviewer: Much like what would happen when a change is made to a famous car model, voices of “No, I’d prefer it to be like this…” are heard. We in the production staff would prefer to hear positive comments, but that isn’t the case.

            Mizushima: The “knee jerk” reactions are more like “What the hell is this?” or “That’s uncool.”

            Interviewer: Why exactly do you think they’re “knee jerk” reactions?

            Mizushima: Well, they’re not criticisms based on close inspection of the product, or by closely following the story, but rather by merely looking at pictures (of the show) and superficial appearance.

            Interviewer: Right now, the Internet is a place where commentary of the series travels extremely fast. Whether it is positive or negative, talk travels quickly there.

            Mizushima: The people that want to flame the show approached the series right from the start from the vector of “I hate it”, and on the Internet they can find other sympathetic people with which to search for points of shared dislike. They’ve already gotten on the “flow of hate”, and so there’s really no helping it.

            Interviewer: Are you really aware of all the Internet discussions?

            Mizushima: Yes. A lot of the production staff is aware of the comments, and so the Internet flaming does lower their motivation, make no mistake about that.

            Interviewer: Does that sort (of criticism) tend to only happen on the Internet?

            Mizushima: It’s more obvious on the Internet. More so than on blogs, it’s especially prevalent on anonymous bulletin boards.

            Those knee jerk reactions don’t really go up on personal blogs, but more on these bulletin boards where tons of people gather and can post under anonymous pseudonyms. A lot of flaming directed towards films, books, musical artists and the like can be found there. I sometimes think those people simply dislike anything that’s selling well.

            Thus, I think instead of calling them “Anti-Gundam 00″, it might be better to call them “Anti-Popular.”

            I think the approach of not simply watching the show for enjoyment, but rather to criticize it from the very beginning is something that is especially noticeable on the Internet. On the medium of the Internet, the sentiments of animosity towards major works is very strong, I feel.

            Adding to the lulz was that when this interview first broke 4chan tried to go all indignant as to how he would dare suggest any of this, but really couldn’t do much to disprove that he was right on the money other than to sling more mud at the show and him, thus basically proving his statements more or less. Some people don’t like it when the commentary ends up going both ways, but I know I do. :P

          • I remember this interview, yes. It’s already quite tangential to the discussion, but I get what you’re saying. I just won’t be so quick to automatically paint Miao, DarkMirage, or THAT as villains with regards to this issue — only that they did become very influential in the ‘influence sweepstakes’ with regards to Code Geass R2 and perhaps Gundam 00.

          • Not calling them villains, but I think that those who took up the torch should be acknowledged with regard to it being their torch to collectively bear with any and all consequences that come with it be it lulz from commenters or dismissal and profiling from those who they criticize. The only real question that remains I think is whether the fire is out or not.

            Anyway please join my online for a chat on G-mail soon (next half hour) if you are capable of being online tonight. I have loads to discuss about this, that and the other things.

  27. I believe this may be one of my favorite posts. But you know I swoop to material that I can directly relate to. As far as I’m concerned feeling guilty doesn’t apply (at least for me) to most media. Unless I’ve wronged anothe human being in some way playing a video game or watching something on TV I can’t really see the point in guilt.

    Taste in anime boils should equate pretty well to taste in music or other mediums. Just because someone likes country music, death metal or german folk songs & I don’t find it desirable doesn’t mean they should feel awkward about it. Same with the whole argument about “pop” songs being crap & lesser known, more underground material being more quality. The initial reaction may be to feel some awkwardness and guilt because a group you associate with doesn’t enjoy it. And that’s natural, but so was the enjoyment you had when you listened to that song without anyone to tell you about it.

    When I use anime in my examples some shows IMMEDIATELY come to mind. Most any long time anime fan can think of the contraversial & contentious choices. Naruto, Bleach, Code Geass R2, Evangelion, even Death Note & Lucky Star have been big fat targets. I keep asking myself, “if these people hate the series so much, why have they stuck around for 20 episodes/300 chapters?” I honestly think it’s to cement the fact that they have BETTER taste than those who say they enjoyed or even LOVED the popular material. I don’t care for that. The contentious comments don’t do much to further community or helpful dialogue. Nor does a person’s guilt about such a simple thing. Leave guilt to the matters of real live people.

    The only times I can really remember feeling guilt (it was more like embarrassment) was when I had been clinging to a positive opinion of Maria+Holic. I saw something I thought was superior, the first season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. I felt a little silly for considering that show to be of good quality after I saw something that clearly gave me a better idea of what a good dark comedy should be. I got over the guilt and moved on to other anime related matters.

    P.S. And no one’s EVER going to make me feel guilty for enjoying R2.

    • HAHAHA! Well said!

      Going out of one’s way (this is the key point) to point out how terrible something is, in a way that isn’t about building community, does seem like elitist posturing, and does contribute to why some people to declare some shows as guilty pleasures.

  28. kadian1364 says:

    Honestly, I can’t see people feeling any actual guilt about what anime they watch. There isn’t any inherent moral dilemma there, like “Oh God I just killed someone!” would induce a much different kind of reaction than, “Oh God I just marathoned K-On!” Guilty Pleasure as it applies to cartoon watching is more like what OGT touched on: society has these moral standards we’re supposed to abide by, so ingrained into our subconscious that we feel this outside force even in isolation, even in the midst of an experience we enjoy. A kind of pseudo-guilt, as it were. So I guess I won’t watch Bible Black when my parents are around. >_>

    I do think there are right and wrong ways to watch different kinds of shows, at least ways each individual can maximize his/her entertainment value, but even the way I had to phrase that indicates how the attitude and process is going to be different for each person. Snark, criticism, and finding ironic humor are parts of some people’s enjoyment methods when presented with silly stuff like Code Geass or K-On!, but I don’t see any guilt in that, and other people should have thicker skin than to take it too personally.

    • There isn’t any moral dilemma, which makes up part of the inauthenticity of this whole business.

      ‘Right way’ isn’t the same as ‘optimal way’ which is what you talk about and is something I agree with. The ‘right way’ card is played to dismiss someone’s criticism of a show if it is negative.

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