Anime Thoughts · Uncategorized

The Struggle of (Not) Having Thoughts on Anime

Do you ever just forget that you have a blog? That’s what happened to me…until I checked my blog email the other day and found a surprisingly recent request for my response on a certain question. It was such an interesting prompt that I decided to write a whole post on it. If you’re reading this, Guancho, thank you for summoning me from the dead!

To paraphrase the question (*with permission), I was asked how to come to terms with the knowledge that your favourite anime/manga is a poorly constructed story. One of the underlying questions, perhaps, is “How does one defend the merits of an anime/manga against a negative consensus?

I’m not here to answer either of those questions exactly. The second one in particular has been discussed extensively in the aniblogging community, and iniksbane’s reflection on liking “trashy shows” such as Akudama Drive is a good read on the topic. The Controversed series that I hosted last November was also an attempt to advocate for healthy dissent in the aniblogging sphere.

But it’s hard to have opinions in this world, not only because of potential backlash when you voice them, but because we live in an age of information in which so many alternative perspectives are readily available. Not only is it hard to find the courage to disagree with critics more established than you, it’s a whole other kind of struggle when you do find yourself agreeing with every word another person has written, and ask yourself what even is the point of writing anything that isn’t new. And to return to the original question, even if you have no reason to publicize your opinions, how do you deal with your ever-evolving (ever-narrowing?) tastes as you analyze and compare more and more shows?

This must be a non-issue for a lot of people, but I’m an indecisive and not particularly opinionated person. Getting asked “What did you think of [book/anime/movie]?” used to be one of my biggest nightmares. What did I think? Did I think?? Surely I did, but to have a readily available opinion on the entirety of any narrative? How do people do it? (Still curious, by the way. Feel free to let me know.)

The fear of getting judged for a lame opinion was at times a part of it, but above that, I always found it difficult to have a definitive and consistent opinion on any piece of fiction as a whole, without prior brainstorming. If it’s an anime, I might have opinions about specific scenes or certain visual details, but to describe what the whole thing means to me? I’m afraid I’d resort to vague adjectives like “cool,” “interesting,” or “pretty poggers” in a conversation, and not feel confident in even that assessment.

I’ve gotten better at it – at zoning in on memorable elements and shaping my opinions on them into a broader reflection – but even as an anime blogger, reviewing shows is not one of my strengths. In fact, there is not a single review-formatted post on this blog – when talking about a series as a whole, I tend to break down its most notable qualities in lists, or opt for more specific thematic/character analysis.

Well, breaking down larger subjects is always a helpful practice, so let’s break down this nebulous topic too. What’s there to do when you: a) disagree with a mainstream view, b) agree with a mainstream view, c) disagree with your past view, or d) don’t know what your view is?

***Disclaimer: Did I make it sound like I’m going to answer those questions? Haha, please. I list them so that you can maybe tell me what the answers are.***

Disagreeing with the Cool Kids

What do you do when you’re unmoved by the masterpiece that is Violet Evergarden? What do you do when all the coolest bloggers think the Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase opening is problematic and annoying, but you have no trouble enjoying it? Was Ghost in the Shell (1995) a dull movie, or did you just “not get it”?

Well duh, everyone is entitled to their own opinion? But don’t pretend you’ve never seen a bad take and said to yourself, “they just didn’t get the show.” What if it’s you who just didn’t get it when your opinion contradicts with everyone else’s thoughtful analyses?

I ask myself that sometimes. This doesn’t tend to be a problem for something I’ve seen recently, because in disagreeing with something I read, it becomes easier to identify and analyze my own opinions. But for anything that I watched longer than 2-3 years ago that has a more complex narrative, I might distrust my past opinions, and if it bugs me enough, put the anime on my rewatch list. More on this later.

Agreeing with the Cool Kids

If you disagree with a mainstream view and are able to find the reasons for how you feel what you feel, there’s an idea for a cool post! But okay, what if you agree wholeheartedly with everything? That’s kind of worse. What if Psycho-Pass is one of your favourite anime and you love its mature cast and exploration of utilitarianism, are attracted to Makishima, and hated Season 2 but enjoyed the movie? No way, me too!

More than half of the papers I’ve translated over the last 2 years remind me of this meme, and I won’t pretend most of my undergraduate literature papers weren’t like this too. I’d read a brilliant paper and go “wow, they right!”, then go on to write long paragraphs where I quote them, followed by a self-important “however…” My essays did well enough, and I did always end up with ideas that I found interesting to consider, but I was often nagged by the feeling that I was disagreeing only out of a need to be original.

Good thing that blogging is flexible. If you have nothing to say, you can simply, you know… not write anything! Or, as I’ve already mentioned earlier, I might get around it by zoning in on more specific aspects of a show or changing up the format of my posts. That “gap” in critical discourse is still elusive though.

Disagreeing with Your Old Self

Not talking about having contradictory opinions here (although that can certainly happen too), but about disagreeing with your past opinions. It’s all a part of growth, right? You watch more shows and read more analyses on them, and your perspectives broaden. Why be bogged down by nostalgia?

Guancho’s question about how to enjoy a favourite manga that you no longer recognize as a well-constructed story was hard to dismiss. Before majoring in English literature, I remember wondering whether studying literature in great depth would ruin my enjoyment for popular fiction forever. And I wasn’t entirely wrong.

I recently picked up books by Danielle Steel and Jojo Moyes out of curiosity, and found that I couldn’t make it past the first chapters. I also don’t tend to enjoy the writing in light novels – though I do challenge anyone who looks down on light novels as a genre, rather hypocritically.

I fully embrace how my tastes have evolved and how it has enabled me to appreciate fiction more deeply, but maybe it’s a bit of a curse too. We’ll see how it goes when I finally rewatch Bleach or something…

No Thoughts, Head Empty

Having zero thoughts is impossible – even if you can’t form concrete thoughts, you’d at least have feelings. The only anime for which I might attach this meme in lieu of an opinion is Garden of Sinners: The Final Chapter, and I’m probably not alone in that one. I mean, even with that, I could say “Kalafina singing beautiful!”

But sometimes you really just don’t know what to think – you might have liked or admired a series as a whole, but still be at loss as to what to say about it. Maybe you can’t form a coherent interpretation on what went on (especially in regards to endings), or aren’t sure you can meaningfully describe the message it was trying to send. That was my first reaction to Penguindrum.

That’s when I’d go looking for people to agree or disagree with, and/or watch something again in hope for a different perspective. It helps, and attempting to write about it helps, but “no thoughts, head empty” still sucks.

Conclusion

Conclusion? I just wanted a subheading here. I like introspective posts and this was interesting to reflect on. I don’t think any of the problems I listed are issues of concern at all – they’re all part of the process of developing your perspective. There’s also a certain beauty to always leaving room for doubt and allowing your perspectives to shift and adapt.

I’m very curious about what goes through everyone’s minds when they analyze anime/films/books though. Do you relate to any of my issues, or am I just indecisive and weird? How do you decide that you think what you think? If you made it this far into this long-ish post, thank you, and do leave a comment if you thought of anything to think.

20 thoughts on “The Struggle of (Not) Having Thoughts on Anime

  1. I just say things, and usually only have the things I actually think, otherwise if I have nothing, you just don’t see it.

    That said, I’m aware of trends and popular rhetoric so things like “we all think this” is something I can be aware of. That kind of topic I’ll usually only tackle if I have a different perspective to add on top.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That might be why I have been talking about and reviewing older things to audiences that haven’t been as introduced to these things yet so I don’t have to worry about this aspect as much.

    Though, I don’t think I really care about other opinions honestly. Sometimes I just show up with a battering ram because I don’t care and there hasn’t been a lot of feedback against my opinions yet as far as I know.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I definitely used to be like that, where I’d finish an anime and feel like “I really liked that anime, but if you asked me to put it into words, I couldn’t tell you why”. I guess the more I reviewed anime, the more I became able to sort out my thoughts, both while watching, and after finishing an anime.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A lot of what I write is in reaction to other people. I mean I have opinions about stories, but I don’t normally feel the need to explain them until I’m faced with a conflicting point of view.

    If I agree with the person, I don’t really have much to say.

    The only exception are my essay series, which are more about things I notice rather than my opinions about a show.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, I’ve been away from WP and blogging due to things I blogged about last night, but I’m back Moytori.

    When I watch a series, if I like it or not, I blog my thoughts on it, good or bad. That said, I research the series first, see how others reacted to it, but my opinions are mine at the end of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. it’s funny that i saw this post of your today, because i was just debating writing something up about Wonder Egg Priority, and then i was like “you know what, i think i feel the exact same way as everyone else so i’ll save it” lmao

    for the last one on No Thoughts Head Empty, sometimes I’ll try and write about a series and discover how I felt along the way. like, when I have my book club, sometimes I think I was “meh” on a book we read, and then once we start talking I realize I pulled a lot more from it than I thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What I tend to do, aside from not writing about everything I see (because you can’t make a post about everything, not even close) is to work backwards from my conclusion. That might sound like a bad way of going about things, but let me explain. I walk away from everything I see or read with an impression- this was (good/bad/great/terrible). From there, I’ll think on what made me feel that way, and then why that made me feel that way, and then how someone else might feel differently given any number of small variables in their experience with the media changing. Like, maybe they took a break watching after episode 6 of a 12-episode anime, where I watched the whole thing in one sitting, or something, and came to a different conclusion.

    Somewhat related, this is why I reject the idea of “objectively good/bad” media. Putting aside the whole matter of volatile audience reactions, everyone’s mood going into a show, expectations, means of discovering a show, actual experience watching it, etc. are going to vary wildly. I gave Space Patrol Luluco a 6/10, because I had a headache when I watched it and the spastic fun didn’t sit right with my migraine-afflicted mindset. Does it “deserve” better? Probably, but I associate it with having a headache and that impression will take a lot of doing to change. At that point you could accuse me of “trying” to like it just because it’s a Studio Trigger joint, and some people will say that’s unfair to other shows that don’t have such a prestigious name attached.

    Funnily enough, Kara no Kyoukai’s finale (both movies 7 and 8) did make me feel “head empty” in a positive way, to such an extent that I needed to write something to process it. In that process I filled my head with a lexical conclusion about the series and why Shiki’s story connected with me so strongly. You raise an interesting point: does doing so weaken the point of that series as an aesthetic work? After all, Shiki is an empty person in a very literal sense. Does being able to codify what makes her interesting or relatable, make her less so? And from a hedonistic perspective, does trying to write about such sheer emotional experiences as a Kalafina song playing over ufotable visuals lessen that image?

    I don’t have an answer. It’s just the only way I can think of to share the positive experience with another human being, by codifying it to paper. So much is lost in conversion, but hopefully I get someone to see it for themselves. I guess that’s the ultimate goal of analysis: to get someone else to truly challenge me. Shit, is that egotistical?

    Sorry for going on so long, but that was a seriously good post you wrote there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the long comment, those are the best! And sorry I took so long to respond, my blog is half-dead these days.

      That’s a solid process to writing about something, and I feel like that’s similar to how I approach things these days too.

      Yeah, no fiction can be objectively something when opinions are so subjective, and I don’t think I’d read reviews if they aren’t.

      Now you make me feel like I should have written about Kara no Kyoukai! I translyricized most of its Kalafina EDs on the blog, but never properly talked about the series that I loved so much. I’m somebody who likes words, both writing and reading them, so as much as I might roll my eyes at academics overanalyzing a 3-second segment in Akira or something, I have a lot of respect for that. They say critics ruin everything, but perhaps while writing is subjective, reading is too. If someone’s experience of a piece of fiction is ruined by a piece of critical analysis, it’s kind of on them? So no, that doesn’t come across as egotistical at all!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and I look forward to checking out your blog when I have the time!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. All of this just because Ryuk was bored and dropped the notebook by accident, call it coincidence or fate but if you think of it rationally, Ryuk was the main character of the book, and man his laughs and humor between scenes were awesome
    Parents: Animes are just cartoons
    Me: This level of genjutsu doesn’t work on me

    Like

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