Caution: Spoilers Ahead. Does Knowing What Happens Ruin The Story?

I’ve been wondering this for awhile; how much information can you give in a write up or a review before you enter spoiler territory? And even if you do tell people what something is about, or what happens in it, does that actually spoil the watching of it?

Keep in mind, I’m not discussing murder mysteries where telling someone who the villain is would kind of defeat the purpose of the story.

And if you want to avoid any spoilers I’d recommend stopping.

However, I did turn this over to people on twitter to see how they felt about spoilers:



Lelouch dies - spoiler

If we look at the fantasy genre specifically, there are a lot of quest stories containing the very basic hero’s journey. Joe ordinary has his life turned upside down by some sort of extraordinary event and has to begin a journey. Somewhere in the early stages he’ll meet someone who can act as a mentor character and point him in the right direction (so at least we don’t spend half the story with no clue about what the end goal will be).

Then there is usually the rushed attempt to succeed whereby our ordinary Joe loses something of value and in the process learns some valuable life lesson before he rallies again and we get to the real confrontation whereby Joe employs all of the skills he has learned (usually in short montages) and defeats the whatever and succeeds in his quest. Then he may or may not return home, sometimes with a girl, and sometimes he’ll choose to go on questing.

Star Wars - standard hero's journey and very predictable.

It’s the plot of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Katanagatari and Bleach and about several thousand other fantasy based stories.

So does telling someone that the mentor dies count as a spoiler for most of these shows?

I mean, they don’t in every single one, but it is certainly a consistent theme. The act pushes some emotion into the early stages of the story, gives our protagonist a reason to grow up or a personal investment in the challenge (if they weren’t already), and also usually provides a reason for an early fight that is awesome but not quite as awesome as the final one will be because that would ruin the climax.

Put difficult questions aside - Katanagatari doesn't care if knowing the ending is a spoiler - it is the journey, and not the destination.

Likewise, does saying our protagonist wins count as a spoiler? Really, they are either going to win or lose. It seems unlikely that in a finished story they are going to compromise or  walk-away (though I guess that is possible). If the show feels like it is setting up a tragedy, be prepared for the protagonist to die. If the show feels like your typical fantasy, prepare for the victory march.

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You can’t spoil basic plot elements because most people will have already seen where things are going.

Then what about the details? If the basic plot really can’t be spoiled because there’s only one or two ways it can end anyway, can we ruin some of the fun of the journey by giving too much information about the details?

Ichigo - we all knew he would win but is it a spoiler if we explain how?

So Ichigo has to save Rukia from Soul Society and he does it by mastering… Is that spoiling or simply engaging in a discussion about the plot?

I’m going to admit, I’m fairly indifferent to whether I know the details of a story before I watch or read it. This is probably because I read a lot of classics (as well as a lot of pulp fiction) and to be honest I usually know everything that is going to happen in a novel by the time I actually get around to reading it. Does that make it less enjoyable? Not really.

The way it is written and the way it delivers that story is what will make me love it. Knowing where it is going usually just heightens a sense of anticipation.  However, if I don’t know, as I usually don’t with anime because I don’t read all that much manga, it is still enjoyable. Seeing how things unfold and trying to work out what will happen next is also pretty fun. It’s a different kind of pleasure from a story but still perfectly pleasurable.

That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on plot spoilers and what makes something a spoiler so be sure to join in the conversation and leave a comment below.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.

Hope you enjoyed.

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Contribution

40 thoughts on “Caution: Spoilers Ahead. Does Knowing What Happens Ruin The Story?

  1. I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews as much as possible – give your readers too much information and there is no point them watching the film/show/series. There are of course cases where it becomes impossible to discuss the plot without revealing something critical so you have to be very careful how you circumvent that.

    it is funny how some writers will happily give away something I consider hugely spoilerish when they could have left it alone or been vague about it to keep the surprise intact. I might be alone in this but I feel a reviewer’s job is to sell the film/show/book whatever along with offering a constructive opinion about it, not do the potential viewer/reader’s job for them, if that makes sense.

    1. It is a hard line to walk sometimes as I find myself putting spoiler warnings in at times because I don’t feel I can explain why I liked or didn’t like something without going into spoiler territory but othertimes it is easy just to hint at something and then leave it for the audience to discover on their own.

  2. What do you clarify as spoliers? does reading the manga count? I think when you read the manga then watch the anime, yeah you spolied the anime but it also makes the anime better because you can kinda look forward to seeing that scene animated.

    1. Everyone kind of makes their own decisions about what a spoiler might be. Honestly, if I’ve read the source I wouldn’t be worried at all about what people told me because clearly I intend to watch the story even if I know exactly how it is going to play out. That’s probably what makes it a tricky conversation because what one person considers a spoiler may be perfectly fine for another.

  3. My perspective on the matter is that, well, while you can re-experience a story with full knowledge of where it’s going any number of times, you only get to go in blind once. Why should I be OK with that experience being taken from me without me opting in?

  4. I’m not too bothered by spoilers, to be fair. If I want to watch a show without them, I can usually avoid them easy enough anyway. I think the only time it had any real effect on me was Gurren Lagann, simply because by the time we got the scene that was spoiled for me with Kamina, I already knew that I’d probably stop watching at that point. Knowing the spoiler prompted me to keep watching to that point to see if the series would finally click for me.

  5. I actually love “spoilers”. The more information I can get about an anime or any story the better. I often read reviews, synopsis, comment threads, and google an anime before deciding to watch it. After all that research, yeah I know how the story is going to go, but that gets me more excited for it. Conversely, I more likely to watch an anime if someone tells me all about it to warn me NOT to watch it. They just make me more curious.

    1. I will admit, I tend to watch a lot of trailers and discussions for movies and the like before deciding to watch them. It isn’t that I want spoilers but more that it does help me get in the mood for something and to get that sense of anticipation.

  6. I’ve never met a spoiler that I liked. I’ll unfriend people on social media for blatant spoilers for currently running shows, even family members.

    1. What do you consider a spoiler though?
      You review anime so how much information do you feel you can give about an episode or a series before you hit spoiler territory?

      1. Inside the review, I think it’s fair game, especially with spoiler warnings. When it’s something that’s been put on social media where anyone could accidentally see it or a title of a post or article then that’s where I draw the line.

        There were times when I was searching to see when an episode would air and the search gave me a bunch of posts and several spoiled the episode in their title. I’ve even been listening to the radio in the morning and it tried to spoil an episode of Game of Thrones that aired the night before (in the middle of the night as I was living in NZ at the time).

        I’ve even seen images on Pinterest that have spoiled shows and movies for me. I only tend to read reviews for shows I’ve seen. Maybe I’m odd that way, but I like to go in not knowing anything.

        1. It is fun not knowing sometimes but even if I do know where something is going I’m still interested in how it plays out. I guess because so many of the stories I watch are pretty formulaic in the first place (horror movies are all pretty much the same when looking at their narratives) I’m definitely more interested in how things work together and whether they do it well than in being surprised.

          1. I prefer to try to work things out as they’re happening. I don’t mind formulaic stuff and I get a sense of satisfaction when I predict the outcome before it happens. When someone’s already told me what happens, there’s no chance for me to get that experience. They don’t just spoil the story, but my experience of it.

  7. Interestingly enough, I have gotten into a lot of stories because of being spoiled beforehand. Prime example is that I watched episode 12 of Re:Zero as my first episode, and honestly, I would have never touched the series had it not been for that.

    I think spoilers are one of those things where I don’t care about them in general, but I also am not going to openly let spoilers be untagged or labeled because of the sheer amount of people that it does ruin the story for. For me, it’s more of “once I start a story, I don’t want it spoiled” but if I have something spoiled before then, then I can use it to enhance my viewing of the story as well.

    It basically just all boils down to perspective for me, and that’s honestly just something I judge on a case-by-case basis. I don’t see them as a threat though, I just like them to be marked so I know what I’m being spoiled for.

    1. I’m kind of with you. While there are some stories I prefer to find out the answers to as I go, if someone does tell me it isn’t the end of the world provided the story is still well told. I do appreciate people labelling spoilers so I can decide whether I care or not about a sense of mystery before reading it.
      Thanks for the comment.

  8. This is such a thorny subject to broach, so bravo for tackling it head on.

    In terms of spoilers in reviews, I think it’s a matter of putting each review in context. So in my recent review of One Piece Col 13 I avoided outright spelling out the plot points, but as the episodes are getting on for ten years old, I’m aware that the events are common knowledge. But I think it’s short-sighted to assume that given all that, everyone will still be aware of these plot points. I’d hate to ruin the enjoyment of a series because of a spoiler I had inadvertently given. So I tried to take a diplomatic approach and discuss the events, while ensuring I didn’t give it all away. I’m sure, like me, you realise how difficult a balancing act that can be.

    Sadly spoilers seem endemic in the internet age, as much a part of the fabric of the entertainment industry as the media itself. It’s especially rife with the long-running shows such as the aforementioned One Piece, where simply engaging in a discussion can result in spoilers.

    As we write a lot of news at the blog, we inevitably come across so many spoilers, especially for recent and popular shows, shows so Erased and Re:Zero have all been spoiled in that regard, but our enjoyment of each show was undeterred.

    1. It’s kind of impossibly to discuss the long running shows without some of the major plot points coming up.
      Thanks for your comment.

  9. This is an interesting topic.

    1. I think my recent worst spoiler was finding out the identities of Attack on Titans’ Armored and Colossal Titans from a YouTube vid shortly after I finished the anime. There was no warning or anything – it was just there. After that, I just said fuck it and went through the entire TV Tropes page…

    2. I would prefer to go in blind and read reviews and editorials after I’ve seen a show. My own reviews are intended for those who either don’t mind spoilers or have already seen the anime. I generally don’t freak out even if I do get spoiled but I’d prefer to avoid it…mostly.

    3. There’s no definite answer to this, I think. It depends on the nature of the narrative, how invested I am in it and whether the spoiler is likely to affect the way I watch the show.

    1. I’ve managed to avoid finding out much about what goes on next with Attack on Titan. Not that it would change whether I watch a season 2 or not but I kind of like that we don’t know everything yet.

  10. Never got into a situation where I had to say ” stop I don’t want to here about it”. People either don’t talk about it around me or I spoil everything all by myself by looking online. I’m good for that, tend to read all the bio, background story of character that I don’t even know yet, just to see if they will die or not. Therefore I don’t really care about spoiler, that probably why I do spoil a lot when I’m writing my post. I try to not forget to warn the reader before tho. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about a series without spoiling anything.

  11. A very interesting topic to think about. I never thought about it like that before so I don’t really know. But rather recently, I think I told the worse spoiler ever to one of my friends. The anime we were talking about was Kimi no Nawa and what comes after that is better not to be spoken off. I’m not kidding here he actually tried to… Oops! Anything more would be considered spoilers, right?

  12. It’s a balancing act. I mean, if I’m watching a trailer for a brand new movie or am looking for a review on whether a series is good, spoilers should be minimal. I’m just want to know if it’s worth seeing, not a Cliff Notes version of the movie/book/whatever! If you are looking at information on a sequel or an analysis of something, then spoilers are fair game. Just would be nice to have spoiler tags/warnings, and let readers decide whether to skip ahead in the article/comment/review or continue reading.

  13. My opinion on this is that it just depends on the person really. If they want spoilers then they can go look for them on their own. If they really are that curious. So when you do a blog post you can give details and still taylor to people who don’t want spoilers just info on whether this anime is good or not. Same for movies. But that’s just me lol

  14. What is a bad spoiler depends from person to person. Some people say any spoiler is okay after a certain period of time passes. Others will get angry if you show them a trailer or write a brief synopsis.

    A bad spoiler I suffered recently was the death of a certain character in the latest Star Wars. Someone blurted it out on a Youtube comment, despite the fact that the video had nothing to do with Star Wars.

  15. Hmm….interesting topic. I guess there is always a kind of grey area with these things. A review about a movie or series is usually going to contain some story elements. It is almost impossible to do a review without them. Telling key plot elements, or things that have a significant impact, those I consider to be spoilers.
    As for your questions:

    1. Worst spoiler…someone told me how “Seven” ended before I saw the movie. That was pretty bad…
    2. That pretty much depends on the movie or show. Certain movies such as for instance the new Star Wars movie, I want to know as little as possible. I just want to be surprised as much as I can. But Marvel movies, as much as I like them, I don’t mind knowing a bit of the story before I see them
    3. Well, already answered this one a bit: certain key elements or plot twists, or details about the future of characters, those I consider to be too much info…and I consider those as spoilers.

    1. I was the opposite with Star Wars. After the prequels sucked the life out of the series for me I wasn’t going to spend any more money on it and I really read and watched a huge amount of information about the new movie before Idecided to give it a go. I ended up loving it but I kind of knew exactly what I was in for before watching.

  16. I don’t have a worst spoiler because I legit could care less about spoilers – I spoil a story myself half the time by going and wikipediaing the plot to see if the story sounds interesting. Every plot point, and character beat has been done, it’s all about the journey for me – back in the day, when Yu-gi-oh! was airing on Kids WB I’d read the episode summaries of not yet dubbed episodes to see what would happen next and just be like “Yeah, Yugi wins but how does the duel go”. I’m more of a character development person, so if I know a character dies, or a certain plot point happens it doesn’t matter to me because a spoiler never mentions how a character would react to said situations their put in.

    If I start watching a show, I usually don’t look at spoilers but I watch shows so quickly it doesn’t really effect my viewing either way. And even if I look up some info about a voice actor or something and accidentally skim past a plot point I just go “Oh man…but interesting” and keep watching haha. I’m fairly apathetic towards spoilers, is the TL;DR~

    1. I think that’s why I’m fairly indifferent to spoilers because I like to se how the characters act and grow.
      That said, if I’m told the end of a murder mystery I’ll probably be annoyed.

  17. 1. I don’t have one “worst” but my friend will spoil anything and everything if I’m not careful. I always am having to go, “STOP! I haven’t seen that yet!!!” otherwise he’ll ruin it.

    2. Yes and no. I want to know that a story pays out but I don’t necessarily want to know in what way. It’s a fine line to straddle. This really only applies when I’m purchasing stuff (which I tend to do) but I do my best to avoid spoiling anything, especially a major plot point.

    3. Too much is anything really major. I don’t mind the first episode of something being spoiled, it happens a lot in “the pitch” for a lot of things. I’d assume rather know as little as possible when coming into something though, makes it more fun for me to watch. Not that I can’t enjoy a “spoiled” series, just not as fun.

  18. what counts as a spoiler is too vague for me, so i generally dont bother overthinking it. if im talking about a series past the first episode, im bound to piss someone off. heck, it could be as easy as emphasizing a character that’s supposed to have died in the first episode, indicating that they return later (also, this post is a throwback for me since this was one of my earlier topics too)

    ive also never cared too much about spoilers…ive read entire plot summaries and still watched the series through, so i really dont think it affects me.

    1. I’m much the same. Generally speaking I go into stories knowing what to expect (the anime I watch episode to episode are the exceptions and even then I don’t really mind if I’ve read someone else’s review before I watch it).

      1. i think the worst experiences are when you meet the ppl who will just go off on you for saying a spoiler when they’ve never even said anything about not watching or not wanting to hear spoilers…am i just supposed to walk a tightrope in every conversation?

        1. I agree. I like to discuss the things I’ve watched (hence why I started a blog) and to be honest I want to talk about what happened and why and whether it was good or not. If someone specifically asks me not to say something about a movie or the like, that’s fine, but I’m not going to censure every conversation and comment just in case someone is worried about a spoiler.

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