“Git Gud” – You Don’t Want An Objective Review, You Want Your Opinion Parroted

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was released last week. As someone interested in the game and franchise, I did what many others had done, and decided to read some reviews before the game was actually released. I set off to Metacritic’s page for the game, and as I am wont to do, I opened a handful of posts, running the gamut from high scores to lower scores. Well, I found this review by Chapel Collins on Gaming Nexus, a site I haven’t heard of before, and as I read the piece, I knew what the comments would be like. There were only two at the time (there are 151 right now), and they did not disappoint. A classic circling of the wagons by an indignant cult (or fandom), an all-out attack on the outsider.

git gud

The best defense of the fandom – attack the critic.

(While this post is somewhat of a rant on fandoms and the search for “objectivity”, it’s also an editorial on the nature of reviews.)

Before we proceed further, a couple of words on what I look for in a review, specifically of something such as a video game, headphones, or a computer mouse, which is often not what I wish out of a “review” of a narrative, though video games can also incorporate that “other” part (see Austin Walker’s post on Darkest Dungeon as an example). What I look for in a review of this sort is enough information on the product to tell me what it’s like – what qualities it has, what it focuses on, what it actually plays like.

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Mahouka Koukou / Irregular at Magic High School: An Ode to Meritocracy!

I’ve warned people. I told them it’d be bad. I told them there’s a reason the messages in this show trouble me so. They thought I was just being overly sensitive. Well, episode 4 happened, so let’s talk about it.

Introducion: Weaponized Light Novels, Handle With Extreme Caution:

Plenty of media pieces convey opinions I don’t share. It’s not bad, it’s an opinion. An unexplored political opinion, a “normative message” (“this is how things should be”) is harmful. You can pick it up, but you should be aware of what its ramifications are, you should look clearly at what it’s actually saying.

Light Novels often contain an underlying subtext that is at best naïve and divorced from reality, and at worst poisonous. A lot of it can be chalked up to “wishful thinking” or “fantasies”, whether they are power fantasies where we get to do as we wish with our power, or ones where we’re smarter than everyone else and they despise us for it, or even where our moral superiority over others should give us more rights, affirming our deeply-felt belief that we are somehow better than those around us, who do not acknowledge us.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei anime / The Irregular at Magic High School anime - Shiba Tatsuya is Dark Flame Master!

Many light novels and anime works, heck, many films, video games, etc. are appreciated not in spite of the subtext, but because of it. We all watch and play stuff for the fantasies they empower and engender within us; that’s fine. If anything, it’s the opposite of escapism, tackling things we cannot handle in life on our terms.

And then we have messages such as the ones in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, that seem benign, but are deeply insidious and had even caused much harm in the real world, and which make me shake my head mightily and cry out, “No. This is not fine.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei begins with the usual stuff: Presenting a picture of a world where we are glorious, but others just fail to see it, and when they do they flock to us, without us needing to actually do anything about it ourselves.

But then the show takes it further, and argues that people who seek more equality, or dare to oppose the benevolent rule of Capitalism are defeatists who blame others, those who argue for “false equality”, and even terrorists, while trying to present its “Rule of the Inherited Might” as not just benevolent, but “fair”, while it is anything but.

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Anime Isn’t Special – And Neither Are You For Watching It

When people asked before “Why do you watch anime?” – I never really had an answer, I watch anime because I like the way it looks and it has enough stories I enjoy. I also watch western television and don’t think one form is better than the other. I also read a lot of books, and I love reading books, and you’ll be hard pressed to convince me most anime beats most books I read (though the reverse is slightly tilted in books’ favour). I always noted it at strange that I do watch all this anime, but it’s just TV, and I happen to watch it to a large degree instead of western television, but I’m not sure there’s any deep reason for it.

 Hikigaya Hachiman from the anime version of

Hachiman from OreGairu telling us how special he is, a notion the show spares no sympathy towards.

So, what got me off my rocker this time? Last week I posted to my blog 10 shows I think someone who had watched a show or two, or a couple of anime movies, should watch in order to get a better feel/understanding for anime, its genres, and to use them to inform future queries – “I liked X, I didn’t like Y.” My post’s comments, and comments on a forum dedicated to suggestion/requesting anime to watch where I posted the post last week, and an anime article-sharing site that linked to my post and discussed it, and Google+, and in each of these places people have been falling all over themselves telling me how wrong I am to suggest Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann and Madoka Magica to people who are new to anime and can’t possibly appreciate these shows without watching aaaaall these shows which these shows deconstruct, reconstruct and/or reference. In the case of NGE (and to a small degree Steins;Gate) people said that the story is “too dense.”

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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.
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