You’ll never guess what I watched for the fourth time—
–okay, you must have peeked. There’s no way you could have guessed without cheating! You, you, you cheater, you!
Ha ha, I kid, I’ve gone on about that show so many times it was an easy guess.
Be that as it may, four times through should be a good indication of whether or not something just resonated with me due to circumstances, or because there’s actual quality that I found myself enjoying. And I’m glad to report that I loved it just as much as I did the last time, so I don’t think my unwavering fandom is a sign of mental imbalance. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be watching this series for many years to come, and enjoying every moment of it.
Turns out a lot of folks don’t think as I do (talk about a stunning development, yawn)—there’s a pretty scathing review at the Anime News Network of volume one, and I see where that’s coming from. Because there are always at least two directions from which to approach any work of art, and those directions depend on knowledge.
For the sake of this entry, I’m going to call those main approaches the Naïve Approach, and the Cynical Approach. Because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want!
It all depends on the depth of knowledge one has about a given form, and how that knowledge helps to shape one’s judgments about further experiences in that given form.
For example, hearing a song on the radio, the Naïve person might say, “Wow, that song is so cool! The lyrics and the harmonies and the guitar solo are great!”
The Cynical person might say, “The song is obviously influenced by [the Beatles], the harmonies don’t measure up to similar recordings by [the classic Beach Boys], and the guitar solo is clearly derived from [Jimmy Page’s solo on “Rock Til You Fart”]. So this song is not cool, in fact, it sucks.”
The song itself hasn’t changed one iota from what the Naïve person and the Cynical person heard. It’s still the same recording. And the reactions of both persons are just as genuine, as is the level of enjoyment (or not) that they derive from it. It’s the level of experience that makes it sound completely different to these otherwise identical ears.
It a matter of comparison. What can you compare the experience to among your past experiences? And if you have no past experiences, what do you do then? To pull up another example, if a person has eaten nothing but oatmeal and carrots his entire life, that first slice of pizza is going to be magnificent. If he goes and tells someone else, for example a person who routinely eats in fine restaurants, that second person isn’t going to experience the same thrill when he goes to the local pizzeria for the first time.
In the case of the ANN reviewer, what he saw when he watched the show were all these other typical anime genres, and he judged how well the show handled them by comparing them to examples of those genres that impressed him in the past. In his judgment, the present program failed to measure up to those standards.
In my case, what I saw was an entertaining show with an intriguing concept, fun characters, nice humor, thoughtful ideas and a great soundtrack…since my basis of comparison was tiny by comparison, I liked it way more than the ANN guy.
So, take heed of anything I write here about anime. I’m not schooled in the conventions and don’t know the basics. I don’t watch these shows to see how they comply with my expectations; I generally have no idea if this same idea was handled better elsewhere; I’m ignorant (for the most part) of the common tropes; and I ultimately don’t know whether you’re likely to enjoy this or not. I just watch for the stories, the ideas and the characters and that’s all I can really write about–my experience.
That sounds really condescending, doesn’t it? Sorry, it’s not supposed to, honestly.
I made a conscious decision many moons ago, that I was going to judge the artworks I experienced based solely on what they themselves provided, and not on critical consensus, past experiences of the form, or some imagined ideal of entertainment. I put aside all I’ve heard about (for example) the film at hand and just watch it. And I find I get more enjoyment out of most things when I watch (or read, or listen to) them this way.
(As an aside, the biggest issue I face is that most entertainment these days seems to be made for the person who is schooled in the conventions, but that’s a topic for another post.)
Consider yourself forewarned, and all that. Honestly, though, you gotta admit a slice of pizza now and then can be pretty darn satisfactory.