“The Objectively Subjective Objective” — A Reassessment

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Four months ago, I spit out a somewhat heavy topic titled “The Objectively Subjective Objective.” With this piece, I tried to elaborate upon the system with which I judge anime and visual media in general. Claims such as denying that “theories and opinions cannot be objective” and that if everything were subjective there would be no point in critiquing anything fill the page with an almost condescending air of frustration and bullheadedness. That post was unplanned, and writing through it, a large portion of the arguments I made were on the spot, without the sanction of some measure of forethought. In recent weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about the ways in which certain products can be both good and bad, and have found a comfortable acceptance with how nothing is generally concrete—that the things that can be determined as good or bad in art is purely subjective.

It’s taken some number of years, but I’m ready to forgo the “objective” discipline. (more…)

Sex Should Be More Prominent in Anime

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I know what you’re thinking. “But how could sex be any more prominent in anime?! There are ecchi shows being released every season, and sexual fan service/tension has been a staple of even the most innocent anime out there! Why would you want to add more?!” I can see why one might assume this based on the title of this post alone. Though, perhaps, one should take it in a more literal sense.

There should be more sex in anime; the actual act of two (or more, why not?) characters performing sexual intercourse. It will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever happen, but I think a more liberal mindset on the topic could benefit the medium (along with others stringent about it) in a multitude of ways, whether carnal or artistic. (more…)

Disney’s Priorities Destroyed The Last Jedi’s Potential

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So let’s do something a little extravagant. We’re gonna mix elements of a formal review, an opinion piece, and an off-the-walls personal document! We’ll pick it apart, while also talking about my unbridled hatred for Disney. It’s the signature(?) brand of comedic, messy writing one comes to expect when reading from my blog. (more…)

Harry Potter’s Final Scene Destroyed Me

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(Apologies for the slightly-clickbait title.)

Through the last month of two, I watched the entire Harry Potter franchise for the first time with my brother. Only Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix stood as films I’d consider above average; indeed, I did not care for this series. The writing always had this simplicity to it that was almost mocking of how dark and serious its tone wanted to be after the second film, along with random twists to add to the flavor of predictable narrative formula. But this post isn’t a critique on the Harry Potter franchise. It is the result of a powerful emotional response to the final scene in the last movie of the series, a response so sudden and overdramatic that it drove my brother to fits of giggles. Only fitting that a film franchise that left me with little emotional immersion would save its most fitting performance for last.

It was the shining star that guided me to demoting The Deathly Hallows Part 2 to an instant 1/10. Also, huge spoilers ahead. (more…)

My Adoration of Expression Coupled with Anime

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Over the years, phrases such as “It’s too bland,” “It’s dull,” “It’s safe,” and “It’s formulaic” have been ingrained into the wordy musings of this blog. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can only assume that when I say these things, people think I mean they’re boring, bland, or formulaic in a general sense, when in reality, they’re all those things largely due to a single driving factor: expression (or sometimes referred to as “heart”). Now, something as vaguely termed as “expression” is a bit tricky to pin down in an objective sense, so as a small, yet effective example, simply look at the cute gif I have posted above of my favorite vampire waifu: Shinobu, from the Monogatari series. Notice the blended array of colors which supplants it out of its immediate reality, the emphasis on her allure being planted right on her face, and the almost cutesy representation of her original design that creates a distinct mood. This is what I like to call “expression,” something that exaggerates, defies, or simply heightens the norms of character exuberance and/or personality—which bleeds into other aspects of a creative work. (more…)

The Objectively Subjective Objective

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For as long as I’ve been blogging, it’s curious that I never made a post like this before in the past. When people read my reviews and look at my (low) ratings for various series, they may think to themselves, “Well, what exactly does this guy look for in a series?” I understand only about one in a thousand people actually think that, as most are satisfied with simply looking and forgetting, but I figured it’d be nice to keep note of what makes my ratings my ratings. What makes me think a series is good or bad and, most importantly, why my opinion holds more weight to me than others.

Now, that last sentence may seem conceited, which I wouldn’t argue isn’t. Everyone has some sort of pride to them within their work or hobby that allows them to feel more confident in their ability to share their thoughts or opinions with others. Especially noteworthy of critics (or those who aspire to be) is the sense of “Elitism” that is stereotyped into the persona of anyone who doesn’t have a systemic average rating of, say, seven or above. I am no different, as while I’ve never been directly insulted through the term “elitist,” I have often called myself, in jest and seriously, more aligned with the elitist mindset than otherwise. There is a reason to this, and one of the major reasons I decided to write up this post.

I will not deny that every opinion is inherently subjective. I will not deny that the differences in perspectives and priorities for each individual person will affect what they find good or bad about a particular subject.  I will deny that these opinions and theories cannot be objective, especially when dealing with a purely artistic or creative medium such as anime. I’ve dedicated my entire critical life to studying the standard guide to what makes a work good or bad based on the context of the subject. Anyone has seen it in a typical review set-up: Story, characters, art, sound, etc. These things are what I would argue can make an opinion objective in nature, though not concretely. I believe in the objectively subjective, that things can be argued into being more true than not; that, say, Toradora!’s characters are more realistic than unrealistic, or One Punch Man’s story is too comically one-dimensional to be given credible weight to its drama. Not that these become established facts, but become credible enough with substantial evidence to be able to be understood by the general public.

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One of the most irritating phrases I’ve heard in my time online is “Everything is subjective anyway, so why make such a big deal about it?” If everything is subjective, why even bother critiquing? Why even bothering distinguishing what is good and bad? Why even blog? Why even watch? Why even be different? Why not just release a bunch of shit for no reason because it’s all subjective anyway and nothing matters? Please bear with my snarky attitude, but it’s something that I feel is too slippery a slope to be said so easily. It almost sounds nihilistic to me; nothing in life matters and we all die in the end, so why put any effort into anything? The beauty of critiquing is so that we can appreciate what makes things good and bad, what resonates and what should be worth one’s time. We critique so that we can continue to attempt to shape the works of others into something bigger and better for more to be able to enjoy. That’s why being more objective than subjective matters to me. So that I can distinguish what makes a series worth not only my time, but your time.

I can enjoy the living hell out of something and still think it’s shitty on a technical level. Take my review of Custom Robo. I love that game to death, but it’s not great in any sense of the word. The gameplay is fine, but the story is incredibly standard, the characters are beyond cheesy, and the graphics are absolutely putrid. It’s not something I would actively recommend if it weren’t for the off-chance that it could allow people to enjoy the game as I did so many years ago. Basically nostalgia. Despite the fact that I adore it so, I only gave it a six out of ten, and that may be generous of me. I could absolutely rate it higher based on enjoyment, but I don’t think the qualities of the game are good enough to warrant so high a score just because it means a lot to me. That would be unfair of me to reward a game for being special to me, for being overly subjective with a topic on my own bias. That’s another reason why objectivity is a large part of what I try to embody.

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On the opposite spectrum, mother! was an incredibly intriguing and thought-provoking film, with great attention to tone and tension. Yet, by the end, I was left with an unsatisfying feeling, especially knowing that it all had one, all-encompassing meaning. I ended up not really enjoying the experience, aside from the fleeting question of “What does it all mean?” I awarded it a seven out of ten. Something I genuinely love gets a six while something I barely enjoyed gets a seven. That would almost seem blasphemous to some, but it’s something I feel strongly about—it’s the type of integrity I try to apply to myself for the purpose of critique. I want people to know what a film, a game, or an anime is worth on its own, while filling in the little details that make it what it is (through my own lens). That is what it means to me to be objectively subjective: to judge a topic based on its core parts and what it succeeds in doing regardless of personal preference or enjoyment. And I expect those who come to read my posts to know that that is what I strive for. All of my ratings are still my own, and I can rate something higher or lower than what it deserves, but I’ll do what I can to explain myself past a simple number score.

So with my brain fried and my fingers slowly bulging with every clack of my keyboard, I’m hoping this makes enough sense for people to acknowledge what makes my ratings my ratings, and how my religion of objectivity is a means of genuine worth rather than a stubbornness to avert societal norms. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and it’s taken some time for me to really develop as my own mental self has grown. To be more open and inviting of ideas; for a long time, I wouldn’t accept that everything was inherently subjective! While something of a personal case, it’s not something I feel more should do, but I would encourage others to take a more intrinsic approach to series and what they’re worth in terms of general characteristics. Of course, I never really delved deeper into that, as what makes characters good or bad is, again, fairly subjective, but I feel it’s the thought that counts. People should just think more, y’know?

Adhering to the Value of Narratives in Video Games

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Do not let the “Plan to Play” section of MyVideoGameList fool you; I have played a number of games throughout my life. Video games were, without a shred of exaggeration, my first love in life—the thing that I would most look forward to waking up to in the morning. It would make sense that throughout my time experiencing a wide variety of different games that I’ve come to develop a certain “fetish” for specific game types that appeal to me more than anything else. Pondering this for years, I always had an affinity for Nintendo games, games with colorful and cartoon-ish art direction, and games involving a lot of puzzle-solving. However, there is a specific aspect to games that has not only become more popular in recent years, but has evolved the state of video games into something that’s been debated on ever since. I am speaking of narratives, games with grandiose stories and moral messaging within its compact code.

For some time, I never realized how prevalent the impact of narratives in video games had on me as a gamer. In recent years, it’s become almost necessary for a game to have some sort of contextual motivation in order for me to care to try a game at all. Games such as Splatoon, Overwatch, and Sonic Mania are all titles that have fun features to their credit that make them enjoyable experiences, but none give me a lasting impression because there simply isn’t enough there for me to really care. And this isn’t to say the mentioned games don’t have narratives to them, they’re just not explored to the point where they become interesting on their own—whether because all further information is found through other sources or the game focuses more prominently on gameplay than story. This doesn’t bode so well for my standards, however, as my preferences have become more tailor-made to the manner in which a video game can immerse me within its world, something that is done best through world-building via characters and story. This leads me to uphold a likely unpopular opinion:

Narratives in video games usually make them better.

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There is no denying that a video game’s mechanics are what come first in a successful game. If gameplay is boring, then why bother? Gameplay, despite the message of this post, is the most important factor of a video game. With that in mind, the typical ratio for the critical player is usually 80/10/10 in accordance to gameplay/story and characters/art and sound. My own ratio is closer to 50/40/10, leaving games with stories/characters that utterly bore me and gameplay/art/sound direction that astounds me at best a 6/10.

Picking on Sonic Mania yet again (due to it being the inspiration behind this post), it follows this train of personal analysis. Gameplay is solid, smooth, and inspired. Art is perfect for what it’s trying to convey and adds even more pizzazz to the spirit of the Sonic series. Sound follows the same path as art style. Despite all of this, the story is bare-boned, and the characters’ personalities are only shown through very meager actions. I bought the game when it released ten days ago and I have yet to finish it, despite the game’s short-ish length. Why? Because I’m bored with it. Its gameplay and design aren’t enough to compensate for the lack of empathy I have to continue forth with the game, which is directly attributed to its simplistic story, and to some extent, its fan service. If I had to give it a rating at this moment, it would be a 6/10, verging on a 5.5/10. And I know that would make a lot of people upset.

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Alternatively, a video game like Undertale is capable of being rewarded a 7/10 from me, despite having gameplay that barely passes off for a typical bullet-hell/Earthbound type of gamestyle. From a gameplay standpoint, Undertale is a pretty dull game that doesn’t have much to offer. The most challenge one faces is trying to identify how to pacify a particular enemy while dodging their attacks in the meantime. Very typical RPG mechanics. Where it lacks in gameplay, it more than makes up for in story and (especially) characters. While the narrative plays a little too much into THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!, its characters are a wonderful variety of fun that makes the game far more entertaining than its gameplay would imply. This succeeds in pulling the player in with assisting (or playing along with) the trials that face the people around them, giving them more motivation to explore the world and find information about said characters or about the major goal.

Of course, there are times when a game gets too ahead of itself and focuses far too much on one aspect, most notably narrative, to compensate for the lack of anything else. Games such as Gone Home or Depression Quest are examples of the narrative > gameplay argument that people rattle over to this day. With the technology present to humanity today, in which we can create games that allow these narrative-driven wholes, are games that focus more on story than gameplay really video games? Such is a debate that rages on among the levels of “The Console Wars,” but in the end, more games are more games, and I’m all the happier for the people who dedicate their time to doing what they love.

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As I continued pondering, I began to understand that narratives in video games have always been the most prevalent and notably nostalgic games of my childhood. Hell, thinking about all the games on my Top 10 List of Nostalgic Games has more than half the list contain titles with heavy doses of dialogue/text or detailed story progression. It took me twenty-something years to realize that the difference between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Sunshine was the fact that Sunshine had more charm through its ridiculously idiotic story and character roster. Such is why I hold the latter to be a better experience, and a better game altogether.

So, with this in mind, the next time you come across a video game review from me, know that there are types of games I enjoy and those I don’t, but I try to critique a game to the nature of its parts and what I feel it tries to exude most notably from them. Still, I’m not perfect, and games like Sonic Mania will end up getting somewhat low ratings because my mind is accustomed to games with a lot more narrative-focus. It’s something I’ve had to learn to get over, though these internal stipulations do have their share of exceptions, hence why I said games are “usually” better with narratives. My fondness of storytelling is something that happened to cross over into my gaming preferences, leaving me to feel encouraged by the future of video games and what they can offer. Such a path will not always be straight and narrow, unfortunately.