Controversial Anime Opinions – A List of Grievances

Yesterday, my blog had broken through its old visitors’ count in one day, as a result of my comment in a Reddit thread titled “Controversial Anime Opinions” where I had the “top comment”. I’ll begin with reposting my list of opinions – note, opinions only, and the whole assumption is that these are controversial, rather than iron-clad truths (for the most part):
Some of the more relevant shows mentioned in this list: Sword Art Online, Angel Beats!, Girls und Panzer, “Big Shounens”, Spirited Away, Code Geass, Btooom!

Cover of "Spirited Away"

1. Sword Art Online is a solid show, with a non-horrible romantic relationship. (See blog post.)

2. Angel Beats! started great, but then worked hard to make me lose my respect for it, episode by episode, until the final episode had betrayed the show completely – I don’t think it’s bad, but I think it’s disappointing, which might be even worse, because it could’ve been so much better. (See blog post.)

3. The Big shounens aren’t terrible, and watching them is fun and doesn’t cause mind-rot. A lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of the anime studios – even without fillers, the padding they add within episodes not only killed the pacing, but actually changed the way you look at the characters – and even still, these shows are enjoyable, to me and many others, even as thinking adults.

4. “Favourite != the best” – that you love something doesn’t mean it’s great, that something is great also doesn’t mean you have to love or even enjoy it. And having something you love which isn’t the best doesn’t make it a “guilty pleasure” – it can still be good, and even if “bad” you’re still allowed to enjoy it without having to keep apologizing on its behalf.

5. Pursuant to #4 – belittling shows others like, or them for liking them, only makes you a douche. I mean, you can do it without being a douche, but if you seek their threads/discussions just to piss on their parade? No matter how articulate and polite you are there, you’re probably still a douche (though exceptions exist).

6. Many anime studios don’t care about anime-watchers, unless after the fact something is found out to be a runaway success, and sometimes even then – unless it’s an anime original it’s only here as promotional content, that we get to enjoy it is an afterthought (also see recent Index/Railgun news). We’re not even second-rate citizens, being western anime lovers.

7. The difference between rank emotional manipulation and shows we laud as bringing us to tears is only to a small degree based on how much they built those emotions during the show, and has almost anything to do with the mindset and experiences we bring to the show – Clannad, Shigofumi, Uchouten Kazoku, Gosick – all these things that make you cry? It’s usually not really the show, it’s you, and it could’ve just as easily been the other way around – with you crying at what you found ridiculous and vice versa. (See somewhat relevant blog post.)

8. Anime doesn’t know how to handle comedies, for the most part. Most anime-viewers don’t know what comedy is. Being trained to consider that something is funny doesn’t make it funny – it just makes you a conditioned watcher. Blood Lad wasn’t funny, Servant x Service wasn’t funny – ok, let me correct that, since humor is a deeply personal thing – I didn’t find them funny, and they were shoddily crafted “Comedies”, relying on viewer conditioning, rather than humor being an outgrowth of the characters’ personalities – you could have replaced the people there with faceless humps of flesh and the level of hilarity wouldn’t have changed, which tells you what level of comedy we’re talking about here (first grader slapstick).

9. Anime isn’t a special medium – I can’t believe it when people say “This is the first anime I’ve watched, I don’t know how to think of it.” – no, you don’t know how to think, period, if you say that – you’ve watched TV shows? You’ve watched movies? You’ve read books? It’s the exact same skill-set, the problem is you’ve done all these other things uncritically as well.

10. Pursuant to #9 – those things you “must be in the know to understand”? That’s not a good thing, that’s pandering to people wanting to feel “included” when they recognize an “inside joke” or “reference”. (See blog post.)

11. Resultant from #8 and #10 – anime are increasingly lazy, throwing non-comedy comedy (which includes references to other things), fan-service, or just gonzo to keep you from noticing that there is no plot, and that the characters’ interaction/chemistry is zil. This is pursuant to #9, turn your brain on and you’ll see it.

12. Spirited Away is beautiful, but has the plot structure of a bedtime story you tell 5 year olds – two friends go to meet a third friend, then they all go together to a 4th friend! The story is simplistic to non-existent, and the story coats by on being a “feel” movie. Here, have a blog post on the topic.

13. Girls und Panzer was at best an example of Poe’s Law. I sure hope it was a parody…

14. Btooom! didn’t suck, it was a by the numbers psychological pressure cooker story. It wasn’t anything special, but it was exactly what it needed to be, and it was miles better than the Danganronpa anime.

15. Anime viewers are not really very progressive – some discussions here on Genshiken Nidaime and Shin Sekai Yori are all you need to see it, but you can easily see discussions that are much worse.

16. Code Geass‘s Second Season felt “Slow”, but it was the true way the show should’ve taken and indeed took, to be true to its theme, to its core message – you guys just came for the spectacle, and when the spectacle felt slow due to the shift in focus to the internal as shows often have in their second halves, you just lost focus. In other words, Code Geass? Second season may have been a bit dull, but it was thematically great. (See somewhat relevant blog post.)


If you want to see the whole thread including others’ opinions, check here. If you want to see the numerous comments and protests people have had, then check here. Almost every single item on this list can be expanded to a blog post, in case it hadn’t already been, but feel free to ask.

I am going to post in a couple of days a post examining the issue of controversy, controversy as attention-drawing, controversy and not being a douche, and a couple of others. I’ve decided to let the list speak for itself for now.

Question of the day: What opinions that you consider controversial regarding anime/anime-fandom do you hold?

17 comments on “Controversial Anime Opinions – A List of Grievances

  1. Murazrai says:

    I have yet to see opinions that I personally see as controversial (but your opinions are understandably controversial in the fandom), but allow me to present one that is I certainly think will be controversial:

    Anime bloggers should stop dismissing kids’ anime just because of their target demographic, especially when they are shounen-bent or merchandise driven. They can be and do well done and in rare instance, do better than anime aimed for older viewers.

    • Guy says:

      Ha! You might like my entry on Element Hunters, and some of the discussion in the comments. But also make sure to read my entry on my favourite children’s book – The Brothers Lionheart.

      Now, here’s the thing, I review things from my own perspective. Like it or not, I’m no longer a child. I can appreciate kids go wild over Dora the Explorer, but when I visit my young cousin and get to watch 10 minutes of Dora, I feel my brain is oozing out of my ears.

      So no, I don’t think “Aimed at children” is an insult, but it’s a good thing to tell people in order to try and help them know whether they’ll like something or not.

      As for your final comment – anime aimed at children usually does much better financially than anime aimed at the niche market because it’s marketed towards a larger crowd – this also includes shows such as Naruto. As for quality – definitely, many children-targeted shows are lovingly and well made (also Spirited Away) while many adult-oriented shows have crap story, crap acting and crap production values. Sturgeon’s Law at work.

    • You know, for kids! says:

      Maybe anime is as different from other animation as telenovelas are different from other live-action series.

      What is the discussion like for Genshiken Nidaime?

      • Guy says:

        Not much discussion for Genshiken Nidaime, but I feel many people didn’t get into it because of the treatment of cross-dressing. But yes, new season after many years, but you don’t see it stopping Mushishi, for which people are very excited. Oh well.

  2. Vincent says:

    15. Anime viewers are not really very progressive , I consider this a good thing. Show that there are some people with a moral standard around.

    • Guy says:

      See, I don’t even have to get into progressive versus conservative to reply to this – I wish all objections were this easy.

      So, “moral standard” – you know what a moral standard is? Morals you stick to, not morals that one should stick to. You know some guys who also had moral standards? Some serial killers, or despots.

      Around here, we have some politicians that have people that agree with them, but they don’t respect them, because they keep changing their stance, and have no moral backbone. You and I can agree that we find that problematic.

      Then there are the politicians, that even their staunch ideological rivals, who can’t agree with them on *anything* respect, as people, because they are honest. They say what they think, and they’ll defend it, and they have some sort of justification for it, however twisted.

      You? All you did was throw out a blanket statement that’s laughable, regardless of your own standpoint, because you have nothing to stand on. Many people I think hold horrible and horribly damaging opinions have “a moral standard”.

      And this is how I reject your petty little comment without even needing to address where I stand on the conservative/progressive divide or what I think of it.

  3. Artemis says:

    *shrugs* I agree with nearly everything you said here, although numbers 1 and 4 had me nodding especially vigorously. I can see why all of the things you wrote here could be seen as controversial within the anime fandom at large, although even the points I don’t personally agree with aren’t things have me shaking my fists angrily or threatening to make my head explode. They’re opinions, and well-argued opinions at that. In fact, I’m more likely to get pissed off at someone who argues a point I actually agree with badly than a point I don’t agree with well.

    • Guy says:

      You’re having me spill some of the points I wanted to use in the part 2 post discussing controversy :P

      1. Points 4-5 are the points everyone would like to say don’t apply to themselves, but which I see *all the damn time*, and which I want to blog about at serious length but always put off due to how much I care about the topic. I actually made several of these points based on how people behave rather than simply what they state as their opinions.

      2. Point 6 is the closest to a non-opinion fact in the list, and not really controversial, but it’s more “unknown” and which I wanted to make sure others saw…

      3. About how controversial these points are – let’s say 50% think SAO rocks and 50% think it sucks – some people argue that neither opinion is controversial because both are fairly popular – but both are controversial because of how popular the counter-argument is :3 And yes, it’s possible to hold a controversial opinion while it’s popular, hue.

      4.

      In fact, I’m more likely to get pissed off at someone who argues a point I actually agree with badly than a point I don’t agree with well.

      Maybe that’s why we get along so splendidly!
      On a slightly more serious note (or at least less upbeat), part of it is also related to points 4-5; we’re often more critical of people with whom we agree with on most things…

      5. Finally, you didn’t answer the question ;_;

      • Artemis says:

        5. Yeah, I was in a bit of a rush this morning so never got around to answering. Now that I think about it though, I believe I’ll leave that one for now – I have an upcoming post revolving around the anime fandom whose points may be perceived as controversial (despite the fact that they’re mostly just common sense to me), so I’ll sit on it until then.

  4. […] from my entry a couple of days ago about a list of “controversial anime opinions“, which had been popular on reddit and my blog, it might be useful to talk a bit about […]

  5. […] that’s tied to something else that bugs me, which I brought up in the Controversial Anime Opinions post 4 weeks ago, in relation to comedy. People get all dazzled and happy and tell themselves […]

  6. Kai says:

    2. Angel Beats! started great, but then worked hard to make me lose my respect for it, episode by episode, until the final episode had betrayed the show completely – I don’t think it’s bad, but I think it’s disappointing, which might be even worse, because it could’ve been so much better.

    Indeed. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed Angel Beats, but I can understand why so many people didn’t like it. Perhaps the show might do better with 20+ episodes, but I think the number of episodes isn’t something the studio has the authority to decide on themselves, and it just so happens that the content and themes they wrote is bit much in amount, resulting in quite a messy pacing throughout the show and themes going disarray. By the end of the day though, I still feel for the show, and I feel attached to the characters, especially at the relationships between some of the characters (just like how you feel for SAO despite the controversy behind the show).

    4. “Favourite != the best” – that you love something doesn’t mean it’s great, that something is great also doesn’t mean you have to love or even enjoy it. And having something you love which isn’t the best doesn’t make it a “guilty pleasure” – it can still be good, and even if “bad” you’re still allowed to enjoy it without having to keep apologizing on its behalf.

    This has a lot more to do with subjectivity and objectivity. Some poeple may said a particular show is their “favourite” or is “the best”, but that doesn’t mean everyone else would find the same. Even some shows where it’s *almost* objectively famous, they still might be a few who had different opinions and dislike it.

    8. Anime doesn’t know how to handle comedies, for the most part. Most anime-viewers don’t know what comedy is. Being trained to consider that something is funny doesn’t make it funny – it just makes you a conditioned watcher. Blood Lad wasn’t funny, Servant x Service wasn’t funny – ok, let me correct that, since humor is a deeply personal thing – I didn’t find them funny, and they were shoddily crafted “Comedies”, relying on viewer conditioning, rather than humor being an outgrowth of the characters’ personalities – you could have replaced the people there with faceless humps of flesh and the level of hilarity wouldn’t have changed, which tells you what level of comedy we’re talking about here (first grader slapstick).

    I still remember one of my conversation with one of my anime female friends, where we talked about Gintama. I like it, but she doesn’t like it as much. Gintama’s humors are good, no doubt about it, but I can see why girls will feel a bit put off by some of the jokes Gintama presented (if you watched enough, you will understand it). Indeed, humor is a deeply personal thing, but I’m still recommending Gintama to anyone I see anyway.. >_>

    10. Pursuant to #9 – those things you “must be in the know to understand”? That’s not a good thing, that’s pandering to people wanting to feel “included” when they recognize an “inside joke” or “reference”.

    I see you linked to Genshiken, but I would add that Gintama has a similar problem – putting in massive amount of references and parodies not even just within it’s own Japanese culture but also including Western music, politics, culture and other elements outside of it’s Japanese culture. But now that when I think about it, that seems like a good thing to. Aside from universal jokes, anime these days seem to rely a lot on references and parodies for jokes, and by implementing jokes outside of Japanese culture, westerners watching them will notice the references – since, it won’t be funny if you can’t realize the references right? I’m also quite glad for the subtitles which explained all the refereces. But still, by the end of the day, I still like Gintama, especially with how they executed their jokes, references and parodies, but once again, humor is a personal thing, and perhaps not everyone will find it as funny.

    12. Spirited Away is beautiful, but has the plot structure of a bedtime story you tell 5 year olds – two friends go to meet a third friend, then they all go together to a 4th friend! The story is simplistic to non-existent, and the story coats by on being a “feel” movie. Here, have a blog post on the topic.

    I think children shows like this can actually goes two ways. Children watching them will indeed feels like a soothing, simple and relaxing bedtime story, and also something memorable and nostalgic as the child grows older and mature. As they grew mature and started visiting these kid shows, and by looking with a keen eye and mind, they will notice the meaningful underlying tones with these kid shows which makes them memorable and nostalgic.

    P.S: Not saying you’re a kid, mind you :p

    15. Btooom! didn’t suck, it was a by the numbers psychological pressure cooker story. It wasn’t anything special, but it was exactly what it needed to be, and it was miles better than the Danganronpa anime.

    +1

    16. Code Geass‘s Second Season felt “Slow”, but it was the true way the show should’ve taken and indeed took, to be true to its theme, to its core message – you guys just came for the spectacle, and when the spectacle felt slow due to the shift in focus to the internal as shows often have in their second halves, you just lost focus. In other words, Code Geass? Second season may have been a bit dull, but it was thematically great.

    In first season, Lelouch could sacrifice without a care as long he could acheive victory, but in second season, the exploration to that morality is great. I feel satisfied with the direction taken in the second season, having Lelouch to revisit all of the internal problems left out in the first season.

    • You know, for kids! says:

      I can see why she wouldn’t like Gintama. Some jokes are a bit crude. I think I like Gintama because of the over-the-top characters and the unrestricted setting. Sket Dance uses similar humor, but I found it a bit lacking, maybe because it takes place in a high school.

    • Guy says:

      2 Angel Beats.

      I’m fine with people liking it, actually. The ending to me though was a real betrayal of the whole show, but if people like it, good for them – and I’m not saying it sarcastically, I wish everyone loved every single show they’ve watched.

      4 Favourites, objectivity…

      Well, being famous is something you can measure objectively. But sure, there are always people who hold the “other” opinion.

      12 Children shows.

      Assuming everything has undertones. Though I’ve seen some nice posts on the underlying levels of Spirited Away, in particular. The plot-structure was a bit too bare bones for me though :<

      16 Code Geass.

      Well, there’s Euphie in S1. But yeah, S1 is mostly about making decisions, and S2 is paying the price.

  7. […] as it should possibly be titled, A Very Late Reply To That Post I Commented On Once Saying I’d Write This […]

  8. […] post idea came from Artemis over on the Otaku Lounge (who got it from Guy Shalve…I love how post ideas get around the blogsphere!) It sounded like a fun topic to think about […]

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