Controversy Draws Attention, But Don’t be a Jerk

Continuing 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 controversies, discussion, and the relationships between these things.

Duty Calls - xkcd strip - First, controversy attracts attention, people just love to see what’s controversial. Controversy also sparks discussion, because we love to weigh in on things we believe strongly about. This is somewhat related to when people attack things we love and we interpret it as an attack on ourselves. Furthermore, discussion sparks discussion, and attracts more attention – we see people excited about something, saying things we agree or disagree with, and we pitch in. That’s also why popular posts on reddit tend to only get more popular, and not just because we’re too lazy to keep looking after spending time on them, though that certainly helps.

Someone in the reddit thread which spawned my list said “In this thread –  Reasonably popular opinions being portrayed as unpopular controversial opinions”, and this statement contains so much that needs unpacking, and that is useful to unpack when discussing controversies, and garnering attention, and also when discussing fandoms in general. First, you don’t need controversy to spark discussion, you need the appearance of controversy. People don’t actually need there to be anything controversial as much as they come to be excited, and to have discussion with other people.

More than that, there is the dark side to much of this – controversial opinions are often controversial because they lack nuance – many would rise up against hearing their favourite X is shit, but would agree with an argument which presents some pitfalls it has – the difference is how much weight they ascribe to these things. In this, you might find it to be that it is not controversies themselves which draw attention, but polemics – statements that are presented in a highly divisive manner, which are “calls to action” from supporters and dissenters – who might be agreeing if things had been presented in a more nuanced way. Of course, the more nuanced and lengthy it is, the more you risk losing people’s attention.

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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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Spirited Away, A Children’s Tale.

Spirited Away

I know many people may find it hard to stomach, but I was far from impressed with Hayao Miyazaki‘s Spirited Away. Well, to be honest, while I’m a fan of Miyazaki’s films, his last several films have left me less than impressed (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo). I did enjoy Spirited Away slightly more on re-watching it.

 My problem with Spirited Away was quite simple, that it was a children’s story. Sure, a lot of Miyazaki’s films are aimed at a younger audience, or can be enjoyed by children and adults alike (such as how ten year olds whom I’ve known enjoyed the superb Princess Mononoke), but while I could enjoy My Neighbour Totoro for instance, which was unabashedly childlike but also charming, aside from its art, Spirited Away had left me both cold, and made me feel as if someone were paternalizing me.

This is a “Things I Like” post, and as such, it’s not a review per-se, but my thoughts on the series. Spoilers should come as no surprise, this post will have very small amount of spoilers.

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