I think most people can agree that one of the biggest appeals of anime is that it covers so many different genres. There is literally an anime for everyone (if they look long enough) and an anime on pretty much any topic you can think of – and probably a few topics you have to wonder how anyone ever came up with that idea or why.
Every now and then though, an anime comes out that impresses its fans so much that they start throwing around phrases like ‘best ever’ and that draws people to watch the show that might not normally watch something in that genre. Some of these people enjoy what they see and get on board the hype wagon and it continues. However, as more people from outside the core group watch something what you start to see are more and more people tearing it apart. And that’s when things can sometimes take a turn for the nasty.
Our example this season is Yuri on Ice. I wasn’t going to watch this anime. I’m already watching Days which is outside of my usual genre because I’m not into sport. I just stopped watching Free (for reasons explained previously) so I wasn’t exactly in the market for anime guys showing off how appealing they could be to a diverse audience of girls. Other than the fact that it was ice skating, which is kind of cool, there was nothing about the show that looked like it was something I should get into.
Then I read reviews of the first episode. They were glowing. I think during the first week of release I only read one review that mentioned anything negative about the show and even that was a ‘by-the-way’ rather than an actual criticism.
Now, I don’t believe everything I read, but when a lot of people explain in fairly compelling detail why something is good I do feel the need to at least check it out to form my own opinion. So in I went for episode 1 f Yuri on Ice.
And I became one of the people who wrote a positive review on a series that I wasn’t initially even going to watch. That said, it didn’t top my watch list and by episode 3 I was starting to pick at some of the delivery (not the animation because that is pretty amazing to the point where even non-anime fans that I’ve got to watch a snippet of the skating are just kind of mesmerised). But I understood why so many people were on board with this series.
It was also about the week 3 mark that I started reading some more negative reviews around the series (these were still the minority but they did start cropping up). Don’t get me wrong, negative reviews are important and diverse opinions on a series are actually kind of necessary and reflective of the range of opinions people will have around watching a series. I started picking at the dialogue and other people started picking at the reuse of animated sequences (though if that is a measure of problems in an anime the entirety of the original Sailor Moon series is up the creek). These are genuine criticisms of an otherwise fairly strong series this season.
What worried me about some of the reviews that were more just a push back against the positive opinions of others rather than a critique of the show itself (other than the reviews that decided the relationship between Yuri and Victor was a problem in which case you have to wonder how they even made it to episode 3). These reviews throw around words like hype and overrated but don’t actually provide concrete examples of problems, or they identify a problem but not one that would actually lend itself to making you call a show terrible.
That said, the majority of the reviews around Yuri have still been really positive. It will be interesting to see where the love/hate split for this anime ends up once the anime has ended. Will the series fail to maintain its standard but still keep those on the hype train sitting there? Will it falter so that those of us who came in out of curiosity (who aren’t totally in the fan category but are really enjoying it) start to pull more of the faults apart? Or will the hate bandwagon gain momentum and eventually win out? Or, will it actually be an incredible anime from start to finish?
It would be great to see this series end with those who love it continuing to go on about how amazing it is (because there is a lot to love) while others take a more critical view of it but manage to do that in a way that actually respects what the show is and doesn’t assume that anyone who is watching the show has sniffed glue for awhile first. At episode 6 I can actually see where a lot of casual viewers will start to get turned away. The amazement of episode 1 has passed and while the characters are kind of awesome (at least I like them) if they haven’t appealed the plot isn’t doing much to hold you. The only thing left would be a genuine love of ice-skating and I just don’t know if that will be enough.
The problem is, we’ve seen this all before. Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, Evangelion and pretty much every anime that has come out and taken its fans by storm goes through this. The problem with being popular and standing out is that you are exposed to a lot of scrutiny and it is so much easier to be critical of something than to praise it. And once the negativity wagon gets moving it is really hard to stop. You end up reading reviews that tell you something is ‘the worst ever’. Now, even if you take every legitimate criticism of Evangelion on board, it would still be hard to argue that it is the worst anime ever. There’s significantly worse in terms of story, characters and animation quality. The same goes for most other shows that get labelled with such extravagant titles.
Sword Art Online is one I particularly get annoyed about. Not because I don’t respect the opinion that it has flaws but because so few people respect the opinion that its actually kind of fun to watch and there are moments of pure awesomeness in it. I’m a big fan of the series and even I’ll criticise aspects of it (the entire second arc for one) but I’m not going to call people names if they disagree with me.
While I get that hyperbole is actually part of reviewing because you want your opinion to come across clearly, I sometimes have to wonder if the same person who would label something ‘the worst ever’ would be so hostile toward a show if they hadn’t read all the hype prior to watching it and felt the need to counter every positive review ever written.
As an anime fan who has watched these arguments play out many, many times, my rules are pretty straight forward:
- Read as many opinions as I can but focus on the ones that provide actual evidence to support their claims. Just telling me something is amazing or rubbish isn’t particularly enlightening unless they can tell me what about it is amazing or rubbish and why.
- Have favourite reviewers who I know have opinions that have meshed with mine previously (or have never lined up – there’s one or two reviewers that I read just to know that if they liked something I probably won’t). While I don’t agree with everything they say, it will help me filter my list.
- Get used to trying stuff on my own and making up my own opinion. Sometimes an anime just hits the right spot for no apparent reason.
So, a few questions from this week:
- What’s an anime that you feel got put through the love/hate cycle and where did you end up with it?
- How do you navigate the range of opinions about an anime?
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