Watching anime is just like enjoying other forms of entertainment: the purpose is to satisfty your entertainment needs after getting through your daily routines, or before you start your day. It’s no more different to playing mobile games while on train commute or checking BuzzFeed everyday to avoid missing any trending topics to discuss in daily conversations with colleagues.
Unless someone watches a certain anime with strong motivation to finish it, it’s common practice to choose an anime to watch based on tastes and preferences. And when looking for suitable titles, people may look for sources of information, probably by reading KAORI or other sites, or maybe asking friends about anime series thay have watched, or even taking the risk of just watching the first episode without any prior knowledge. The concept of tabula rasa basically doesn’t just apply to babies and kids, but also to every social being who receives references from their social environment.
That also means someone could miss some opportunites at the start of a new season if, for example, they asked a close friend, “is Ranpo Kitan worth to watch?” and the answer was “ew gross! That’s too gory.” Or if they asked a close friend for opinion about Infinite Stratos, and the friend was a huge fan who would persuade others to use up their precious 13×20 minutes of time with Infinte Stratos.
It doesn’t meant that Ranpo Kitan is objectively better than Infinite Stratos (although it’s possible to qualitatively analyze the comparison of their depths), but the anecdotes illustrates how a viewers choices (and judgment) can be influenced by words of mouth from their circle of friends, and most worryingly, when they easily judge an anime is bad merely based on what they hear from the internet. Or another example is when an anime makes a surprising “twist,” people easily assume Gen Urobuchi must be the mastermind.
This is exacerbated by biased reviews on some media. Even in KAORI, there are some reviewers who explicitly mention “storyline” as a factor to determine whether an anime is good or bad and KAORI editorial policy in principle allows reviewers a large degree of freedom to write their reviews in the ways that they prefer (as long as they remain within reasonable limits), but once again, this can only be possible when someone already has good information literacy.
In summary, trusting your friends or opinions from the internet could turn out to be reliable source and broaden your perspective (as I myself had experienced when I watched Boku no Pico around 2008), but they could also trap you (to join the bandwagon of hating certain anime). How could we deal with this?
The most simple and effective way, is not to follow your friends’ opinions while making your choice. There are other options if you are confused where to start.
First, try to folllow the titles that are becoming trending topic. At the time this article was written, the anime Charlotte was trending, so you could try to watch it, and watch it to the finish, if possible, and use your first impressions as a frame to read and analyse other people’s opinions and internet reviews. You may think of things like, it’s not as great as the hype makes it to be, why do other people like it that much?” If you have begun asking these kinds of questions, that means you have made the first step to become a better and wiser viewer.
Another option is trying to get into some titles that most people look down upon and find out by yourself whether it’s really not worth to watch or it’s actually a “shit that’s good” impression. Some time ago, the staff of KAORI Newsline had been obliged to watch anime because there are those who had been out of touch with contemporary anime. I pushed myself to watch Absolute Duo and despite its confusing storyline, it turns out to be enjoyable. At the time this article was written, I was following Kuusen Madoushi and despite the 1 out of 10 score and bad reviews at other websites, I found out it to be fun. The story is not that clear and nothing is exceptionally interesting, but it’s enough to relieve stress. Of course it’s undeniable that some titles, no matter how you try to interpret it, are just confusing all around (e. g Mahou Sensou)
Another interesting point is that, opinions on the internet does not always correlate with the reality of an anime’s success. For example, some of KAORI staff who watched Senki Zesshou Sypmhogear and keep watching it but still can’t explain why this anime can goes on to the third season despite its baffling story. But as long it’s entertaining, why not? An opinion piece at Anime News Network already discussed similar case with Prison School and admittedly, some of the points can be applied to other anime.
Trying to break out of the trap of friends’ tastes and opinions can also lead to the discovery of some interesting facts. When KAORI team gatheres the data on 40 of the 47 anime titles that would be aired in the summer of 2015, only 8-10 anime from that list use fanservice as the main selling point. The myth that anime these days are nothing but fanservice is a stereotype that for whatever reason, continues to be perpetuated on the internet and sometimes used for serve the interest of certain people.
If you can get out of the trap of your friends’ preferences (and other types of thought traps such as “must faithfully adapt the source material,” “must have sophisticated story,” “must have moe art style,” “there should be no elements of shounen-ai,” etc. that could themselves be discussed in depth as separate topics), it would be easier for you to enjoy watching anime without holding prejudices. Of course, including watching Toradora!
By Kevin Wilyan | The writer is a senior editor at KAORI Nusantara | Translation by Franklin Rimbing | This article was originally published in Indonesian at KAORI Nusantara on 3 September 2015 | This opinion is the personal views of the author and does not represent the views and editorial policy of The Indonesian Times or KAORI Nusantara