Anime Thoughts · Uncategorized

What Makes a Spoiler a Spoiler?

This is something I wonder about sometimes, which a certain Tweet caused me to reflect on again:

People have different degrees of tolerance when it comes to spoilers. For me, as I’m sure it is for most people, my avoidance of spoilers is dependent on how much I care about continuing a show. I’ve been avoiding Land of the Lustrous spoilers like the plague, but I actively looked up the grand finale of Demon Slayer.

But the issue at hand: what makes a spoiler a spoiler? I like lists, so let’s make one and see if it helps!

1. Time Elapsed

According to Kiri’s Tweet, it would have something to do with time. That’s an aspect I haven’t thought so much about, but it seems true that people police spoilers from the current season more carefully than something from the 2010s. Like, it’s okay to post this Naruto meme, but not okay to post something that shows who dies in Tower of God (does anyone die, btw? Ep. 1 suggested it was going to be an edgy seinen, but now nobody’s dying anymore. N-not that I’m waiting for someone to die!).

naruto mask meme
Shoutout to whoever made this

This is pretty reasonable: the more time the general audience has to catch up on something, the more justified it is to post about it on the Internet. As for new audiences to older classics, the same plot points would still be spoilers, but they are the only ones responsible for avoiding them.

How long to wait before posting a spoiler, if you’re trying to follow spoiler etiquette, is still a tricky problem that I don’t really have an answer for.

2. Shock Factor

Let’s delve into this a bit more and try to define spoiler. I might say that it’s anything that reveals an important event that takes place later in a series, and by doing so, deprives the event of its shock factor. Here’s a short and general list of shocking things I’ve thought of:

  • Character death
  • Romantic relationship becoming canon
  • Revelation of a character’s past
  • Revelation of how the world works
death note L death
If it happens in dramatic slow motion, it’s probably a spoiler

Spoiler etiquette isn’t that difficult to follow if you steer clear of these, I think. But then also, which characters are important enough for their deaths to matter? What sort of revelations are shocking enough that they might be ruined by anticipation?

3. Importance of Character(s) Involved

It really doesn’t matter that some cute grey-haired soldier got gobbled up in the first season of Attack on Titan, because I don’t remember his name (still don’t). How do you judge a character’s importance? By their screen-time? By their popularity in the fandom? I think both are valid, and the first really affects the latter. I would also say that their ability to impact the plot with their decisions, or the amount of influence they have on the protagonist(s), are pretty central to their importance.

spoiler 1
Food is food

4. Relevance to the Central Quest

Besides the fact that Boruto already exists, it’s not such a big deal if you tell new Naruto fans that Naruto ends up with Hinata, not Sakura. That’s because Naruto is about trying to become the Hokage, not trying to get laid. I remember reading somewhere that Kishimoto only created Sakura because his editor complained that there were no girls. Sakura’s role was literally just “girl” for a good part of the early arcs. Meanwhile, if you tell a new Nisekoi watcher which girl owns the “real” key, or who the protagonist ends up with at the end…I think you might lose a friend.

spoiler 2

5. Timing in the Series

It’s interesting how we generally don’t seem to consider something a spoiler if it happens in Episode 1. Like, cool, we all know that kids don’t really get adopted in Promised Neverland, and that Eren’s mom dies in Attack on Titan. If you didn’t, you would have found out soon enough. Most of the time, the first episode spoiler is already in the synopsis. But it’s iffy if you talk about a death in Season 3 without a spoiler warning. We all know that lips should be sealed when it comes to final episodes, but how many episodes into a series does it take before it stops being “early on,” especially in a 12-episode anime?

spoiler 2
Using this cute picture and not the other one of Ep. 1 Conny for your benefit

6. Predictability of the Event

This point seems to just echo “shock factor,” but I put it here to elaborate on more things. It’s okay to talk openly about Ryuji and Taiga from Toradora! being a couple, even if the series hadn’t finished airing. That’s because the title literally translates to “Tiger and Dragon,” and with how the OP is framed or which characters Episode 1 chose to focus on, how can anyone not see that? It’s also okay to announce that Naruto becomes the Hokage (I keep coming back to Naruto in this post, because it’s that default long-running shounen to me). If he didn’t after all those episodes, I think there would have been a riot.

spoiler 4

7. Popularity of the Spoiler

This is a very interesting one. It’s okay to say that Romeo and Juliet died at the end of their play, not just because it’s an old play, but because it’s a classic. You wouldn’t want to give away the ending of something like Titus Andronicus. Both are old plays by the same author, but one’s ending is so widely known that the phrases “Romeo and Juliet” and “star-crossed lovers” are looked down on as cheesy cliches.

But perhaps that’s a poor example, because Shakespeare kind of spoiled Romeo and Juliet in the opening chorus himself. Spoilers can take on lives of their own. Think of something like the role of Kyubey in Madoka Magica, or what’s up with the girls in Doki Doki Literature Club. If something is memed enough, it’s now a safe spoiler!

spoiler 5
Cute dates being cute

What else?

That’s all I have for now, but I can’t help but feel like there’s so much more to this topic. Honestly, any minor surprise is a spoiler to me if it’s a series I care about, and that’s why I don’t tend to read episode reviews for series that I’m interested in. If you think about it, even a harmless joke can get “spoiled” if you knew about it beforehand.

But of course, sometimes knowing major plot twists can motivate you to start a series that wasn’t originally on your radar or continue a series you were planning to drop. I wrote a post about this much earlier.

Are there other factors that make something a spoiler? What do you think about spoilers, and how conscious are you about putting up spoiler warnings?

23 thoughts on “What Makes a Spoiler a Spoiler?

  1. Haha great read! I think this list serves as a great general guideline to let people know how to avoid spoiling others.

    Although to be honest, if you’re telling me something I don’t already know, episode 1 or not, that’s a spoiler! Just that I can’t blame you for it….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t interact with enough people to have my anime spoiled, but as a wrestling fan it is hard being in the UK and avoiding spoilers about the show which aired during the night before in the US all over my Twitter/FB feed and the wrestling news sites.

    Therefore the principle is the same – should people who watch the show live in the US and news sites be discreet with their posts or does the fact it is now a past event in the US mean it is fair game? The onus is really on folks like me staying away from the internet until I’ve watched the shows but I have other stuff to read on Twitter too like news and interactions with people, so it’s a real rock and a hard place situation. :-/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s tough… With sports though, the spoiler issue pertains primarily to wins/losses, so it’s pretty straightforward. I don’t watch any sport myself, but I feel like if people want to discuss a game at all, it’s kind of inevitable that they’re going to spoil it.

      Best you can do is mute a few keywords on Twitter, but good luck with that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wrestling, as I am sure you know, is a bit different in that there are storylines too, so it is nice to be surprised by somebody returning, or a new arrival to the promotion, and maybe a big angle that occurs. Match results being spoiled is annoying though usually it is championship matches that are only spoiled.

        Even so, spoilers are the bane of wrestling fans outside of the US time zone with the shows still to watch on their country’s TV stations, PVRs or the WWE Network.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t know much about wrestling, and the idea that it would have “storylines” never really occurred to me! That’s a neat angle to appreciate the matches.


  3. Spoilers are unavoidable. I add a brief review at the start for anyone who hasn’t yet watched/read the book, but the rest is for me to discuss and for you to ignore if you don’t want to be spoiled! Also, I think it’s possible to mute tags and keywords on twitter if you want to avoid spoilers.

    What doesn’t constitute a spoiler is also anything thought could easily be presumed based on the premise of the book/show and doesn’t entirely impact the storyline.

    This is a really thorough analysis, great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really not that considerate for my readers, because I tend to drop a spoiler alert and then write whatever I want in my posts. Often enough, I even forget the spoiler alert…

      I agree with your thoughts on spoilers, and while I hate reading them, I do believe it’s usually more on the reader to avoid spoilers.


  4. Hello Moya,

    You covered more layers to spoilers than I have thought about or expected, well done.

    I like that Naruto wear a mask image, and thank you for using the happy Conny image (though it still made me sad 😀 ).

    I try to avoid spoilers in my review posts when I can, I obviously have not thought about it as deeply as you, and so I try to be more vague and short with my review posts to help reduce the chances of me spoiling things (and to save time 😉 ).

    Thank you for sharing this post,
    -John Jr

    Liked by 1 person

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