The idea for this piece came late last night as I was pacing around my kitchen. I thought about my favorite anime, and how two of those entries came very early on in my “anime career.” This, in turn, reminded me of my life before MyAnimeList, a database where people can store, rate, recommend, and socialize on and generally about anime.
Let me give a little more context on the matter: the point of this piece deals with the expectations of going into anime and how outside sources may subconsciously give you a “stepping stool” for what to expect in said anime. In my own case, before going into an anime, I typically check up on:
- Its synopsis
- Its average rating
- Its genre(s)
- Its source material
- Any cover photos
- Reviews on it
See, back before MyAnimeList (which is where I do all of this, by the way), I would never do this at all. The most I would do to research an anime was:
- Check synopsis
- Check genre(s)
- Check cover photos
- Look up its Wikipedia page
I was never really concerned about ratings or wanting any reason to not watch the anime. I would just see a picture and synopsis (through GoGoAnime.com, the site I typically use to watch anime) and decide whether or not to watch it. I wouldn’t have any insight into the anime or how it behaved. I wouldn’t have any information on the anime outside of what the synopsis told me. Most notably, I never had in mind what “bad” the anime could spew at me.
Now-a-days, whenever I’m interested in a new anime, I typically go to its page on MAL and read any cleanly-written negative review I can find. Lord knows any anime will have an abundance of positive reviews, so I like to seek out any negative description. The worst part is, it’s typically all the same: good animation, bad story. Fun characters, but never any development. I’ve seen a growing trend in “Show more flash and gain more cash” in recent years, with anime and otherwise, rear its ugly head and sort of helped shape my overall impression of anime (or popular media in general). But it didn’t used to be that way.
I started using MAL on October 30th, 2012, roughly five months after my anime revival and the first Summer of Anime (more info on that in previous entries). Up until then, I would use a notebook to record my entries and ratings for the anime that I watched. I had no MAL or Hummingbird or whatever to look up on anime at that time. All I could rely on was my own (naive) knowledge on the subject of anime. It was sort of a refreshing feeling, looking back on it now. To have no outside sources deter me from watching anything. It was truly the best time to watch anime, with no one or nothing to sway me away from it.
The overall point of this entry may be to say that being too knowledgeable of a certain subject allows one to feel nostalgic about when they weren’t so knowledgeable about it. Somewhat like thinking back to a child-like state when everything looked amazing, no matter the context. Going into anime now, I know what others think of it, I know its kinks, its “strengths,” its “flaws;” I know what to expect from its genre and even from the studio that animated it. I know so much that the “art” of watching anime has far since become dull, and part of that is my own fault. I’ve allowed myself to research far too deeply before watching any anime. I’ve willingly altered my mind to be influenced by the desire to know what to expect, so that I don’t feel I’d be wasting my time watching garbage. But wouldn’t knowing what to expect only further the negativity and dull the emotions of the person watching it? I would definitely argue for that, and I think I already am.
There’s a certain thrill of starting an anime without any knowledge, knowing (or thinking) you’re already aware of what to expect from an anime or its genre. But that’s not to say that what I do is necessarily bad, either. It’s just that I’ve seen so many anime and been doing so consistently for so long that the entire process seems to blend together. The clichés, oh, the clichés, make it so hard for me to even want to go into something without knowing. It’s saved me from the inevitable “I want to kill myself this anime is so bad” situation as well, as much as I’d love to rate it a one and do a steamy rant on it. There are pros and cons to either situation, but I suppose doing the side that’s safer and more attuned with my info-needing appetite makes anime more predictable and monotonous.
Perhaps anime could become less predictable and maybe my tune would change.
To place the metaphorical flag on top of the mountain, I believe that, through time and more time, becoming expectant of anime is inevitable. However, I don’t help myself by deliberately trying to find reasons to hate an anime. Going into an anime knowing it’s well received with the audience either makes me expect more from it or find more reasons to show why the audience is dumb. Reading “spoiler-free” reviews allows me to key in on specific details about the anime shown in the review to judge for myself, while, perhaps, spending less time on everything else. It’s a deadly cycle that happens with pretty much everything I watch, and part of me wishes I’d stop trying to take apart the plane before it even takes off, ensuring myself a safe and comfortable flight.
Sometimes you just have to take a risk. If it’s bad, it’s bad. It won’t kill you. But that’s not to say you should completely ignore any outside sources. I suppose this is a result of me wanting too much of everything. But hey, despite two or three anime hiatuses and a steadily declining overall impression of anime, I’m still going, and I still enjoy it. That’s enough of a reason to continue, right?
I feel this has simply become a pep talk for me and a “What not to do” for everyone else.
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