Apples to Saiyan – Comparing Anime

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Anime bloggers, as people who watch and talk about anime a lot we naturally have a tendency to compare series to each other. I see it all the time, especially in comments or Twitter. But is there any point to it? Considering all the variables in an anime, it seems unavoidable that even very similar shows are in many respects completely different. In my opinion, the answer to that is both yes and no.

Did I just throw in a YES because I compare anime series to each other???? Maybe.

Let me give you just the barest amount of context possible. I was talking to fans about a recent series and one of the immediately responses was it’s not as good as “insert other show very vaguely in the same huge category”. As the conversation progressed and more people joined in pretty much all the comments started to be stuff like it won’t stand the test of time like X or it will never be as great as Y….

Setting aside the subjective nature of the statements, when I took a step back I realized that this was a rather ineffective conversation. Sure I got that these people hadn’t enjoyed the show but really nothing else. And comparing the potential legacy of a series that started this year with something that has had decades to develop and influence fans simply doesn’t give me any useful information.

levy reading
cause information is power!

This is why I started thinking about this. Speaking about anime in terms of other anime is probably the most common way we discuss series. Not the only one by any means but definitely one of the most widespread practices. So it would be odd if it was mostly useless, as opposed to just me being especially slow.

The major downfall with comparing series, particularly in subjective arguments, is that you don’t know what the other person’s experience is. When I say this show will never be as good as Natsume for instance, that’s not even an insult. There are tons of shows I love and think are amazing but still think will not be as good as Natsume. It’s like a general statement. But if you happen to think Natsume is a boring and pointless series with underwhelming visuals then for you, I completely trashed a show with that statement and we are now having two different conversations. That is of course if you even have any idea what Natsume even is…

Then there is the point I mentioned above about all the factors that come together to make an anime in the first place. For instance, even a die hard fan like myself will admit that the Natsume colour palette is just not that exciting. In the early seasons it could even be called…dull. There are a lot more visually exciting shows out there. So if a show will never live up to Natsume can it still surpass it in those elements? Do I mean in popularity? Am I talking about the plot, characters, voice acting, all of the above? I can even narrow it down and still be super vague. Let’s say I’m specifically talking about characters, do I mean design, personality, their establishment, development, arc? All of these elements are independent. And they get appreciated in different ways. Some people think development is key and find that characters that don’t change through the story are lacking, others love the reliability as long as those characters are cute, or smart or whatever their preferences may be.

Natsume and Hotarubi
ok, comparing these two makes sense!

Those problems are mitigated when you don’t use comparisons to support subjective opinions but only for exemplary purposes but you still have to really define how the anime are similar or different and by that point, you might as well just describe the anime you’re talking about.

Wait, am I just saying comparing anime is useless? I clearly said it wasn’t in my first paragraph. Also I really do it all the time! Hmmm….

Well there are benefits to comparing anime as well. One is efficiency. There’s a reason that these types of comparisons come up more often in conversational formats (comment threads and Twitter for example). It’s a very quick and easy way to get a whole lot of information out there… provided the other person has seen the show.

If I tell you Given is an all boys version of Madoka, you instantly get a very clear mental picture *if you’ve seen either shows*. For the record I don’t think Given is an all boys version of Madoka but I did think it was funny to describe it that way. Actually now that I think about it they have themes of grief, accepting loss and getting over survivor’s guilt in common. Maybe I’m onto something….

I got off track there. I’m sorry. I just amused myself into distraction.

not the same

Like I said drawing parallels between shows allows you to save on word count and helps the other person visualize what you’re talking about.

Moreover, I find that obscure similes can be very enlightening. I’m always fascinated when someone compares two shows that I think have nothing in common. As long as they give their basis for the comparison I can follow along and it usually helps me discover completely new aspects that I would not have noticed myself. Or it gives me a bit of a glimpse into how the other person thinks which makes the rest of the conversation easier and usually more interesting.

Truth be told, it’s also one of the ways I tend to discover new shows. Hearing a series being compared to something I’ve enjoyed is almost always going to pique my curiosity. No matter how many times it didn’t actually work out for me.

Basically what I’m saying is that in my experience, comparing one anime to another is much more useful for describing it than for assessing it. But what do you think? Do you feel like simply comparing two series makes for decent value judgement? Do you do it? When? How? Does it work for you?

Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

9 thoughts on “Apples to Saiyan – Comparing Anime

  1. I also compare series, and think it a totally appropriate approach. Prompted by seeing the ads for Azure Lane on Crunchyroll, my youngest son asked me about KanColle, knowing that I had reviewed it. I said it was like Strike Witches on water, and he had an immediate starting point for our following conversation.

  2. I think comparisons are important if you pretend it exists in a vacuum, technically then everything would be amazing because it’d be a whole unique, groundbreaking story. Which would make reviews very easy though, lol.

  3. I definitely do it, yeah.

    Sometimes I’m trying to provide frame of reference or attempting to contextualise the show’s place in the wider genre or a particuluar movement but it’s *so* difficult to do well, and not to fall into a trap of value judgements, when I compare stuff.

    The thing that bugs me with the process is probably when a review (and I fear I’ve done it myself) spends too much time bouncing the show in question off a high water mark and expecting that new/lesser known work to be as good or as impactful as the paragon.

    1. They also often compare the impact of a full multi season series to the first impression of a new one which isn’t fair. A lot of wonderful series have rocky starts

      1. Yes!

        I nearly did that myself with ‘Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day’ as the first episode had me scratching my head a couple of times, and I assumed it wasn’t going to be a good drama at all, unlike some of its predecessors.

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