When has anime become a field of hermeneutics?

Hey there, people. I actually came up with something that isn’t an episode review for a change.

But you better not get used to that.

Something you inevitably encounter in the English blogosphere (and something that’s also next to non-existent in the German equivalent) are editorials. Self-proclaimed editorial writers only have one goal in mind: To analyze an anime beyond its plot or characters, to seek for a deeper meaning with a show (or a single episode), to dedicate his very soul to interpreting Chinese cartoon porn. Okay, so much for my ridiculously overblown explanation. Sadly, that kind of spirit leads to a whole bunch of problems. Saying that a lot of editorial writers have a very over-analytical approach to things is probably an understatement as some people have this rather questionable mindset along the lines of “No way my favorite anime isn’t deep!”. Got it, guys? We need to go DEEPER! And that’s basically what editorial writers do.

So, as an example…

…if I was an editorial writer, I’d probably spend 5 paragraphs on explaining as to why this statement is very 1) deep, 2) profound and 3) sophisticated and how it totally represents the diversified anime fandom where we are childish and silly enough to get angry about other people’s tastes and whatnot (thus drawing parallels to REAL LIFE in order to demonstrate why this shit obviously matters), and then I’d proceed spreading a message of love and peace, ending the post with a brilliant “I have a dream!” note, probably also insulting the blogosphere as a whole, and, of course, that shithole /a/ which has always done a good job in serving as a proper punching bag.

And that’s all there is to it. There you have your anime and now explain why it’s obviously deep and worth writing about. Hah, but know what? That’s a rather difficult task to fulfill since most anime are dumb and shallow as shit. There’s no depth to them. Not a single thought beyond the obvious stuff was spend on them. You’re not meant to interpret them, you’re meant to watch them. Think most anime are worth analyzing? They simply aren’t.
“But!”, you say. “You’re only referring to the otaku bait shows like GUILTY CROWN and Sakurasou! There’s more than those shows! Like, say, Apollon!”.

This is not a rare statement you get to hear these days. As soon as something is not totally otaku or fujoshi media, it’s no longer to be categorized as “shallow” but up to people’s interpretation and further analysis. Therein lies, however, a logical fallacy since a show that’s good/at least above average/not extremely generic is not bound to be a show made so that a lot of viewers would spend thoughts on it. I can see why people would like Apollon. It’s certainly one of the better shows this year has had to offer. But just because it’s better or different from most of the horde, it’s not deep, nor worth interpreting.

Do you think MONSTER is deep? Or Baccano!? Nah, those shows aren’t deep. They are brilliant, I’ll give them as much as that. But they are not deep. Still, for some reason, as soon as something differs from the norm (no matter how marginal the differences may turn out to be), it’s apparently worth interpreting.
Think about some generic shounen shows, for example. Like Bleach, Naruto or One Piece. Have you ever read any editorial posts on them? Nah. But when it’s about HUNTER x HUNTER, people just go batshit insane. Look! That show is totally different from its colleagues! The writing is clever, there’s so much thought spend on it! Thus, people claim, you can analyze it and interpret it.

What’s with that train of thought? Sure, despite its generic premise, HxH is anything but a generic shounen show but that doesn’t mean it’s deep or has any relevant messages to convey. Please, get that line of thinking out of your head.

For example, one thing I recently came across was a comparison of Uvogin’s fight against the Shadow Beasts to an allegory of mankind’s reign over all other living creatures. I… uhm… what? Now obviously, there had to be some sort of basis for this claim, namely Uvogin killing the four of them quite easily after slaughtering a bunch of mafiosi. Franklin actually commented on that, comparing Uvogin’s superiority to a “gorilla stomping ants”. Apparently that’s all it takes for someone to compare it to mankind’s superiority, ‘cuz, ya know, ants are animals whereas a gorilla is a… eh… well, ants are animals, let’s just leave it at that. But! Of course that wasn’t all there’s to it. Said allegory was also based on the fact that each Shadow Beast resembled an animal. Still, this does not make a whole lot of sense either as Uvogin is part of the spiders and with a troupe called like that, you wouldn’t draw parallels to mankind, would you? Also, none of the powers used by Uvogin would demonstrate that he’s a human in contrast to the Shadow Beasts who represent animals. So one can easily conclude that writers take things too far sometimes.
In fact, Uvogin even used the same attack as one of the Shadow Beasts: Biting. So, how does this fit in the allegory? Where’s the contrast between the two involved parties [human] and [non-human creature] now? Come to think of it, said Shadow Beast also used poison in order to paralyze Uvogin. Poison created by humans which doesn’t represent animals at all. Especially not the kind of animal said Shadow Beast alludes to. Also, the Shadow Beasts didn’t resign to killing their prey (like wild beasts would do), as stated in the episode, but to torturing them. If the poison had been lethal, the fight would have been over at that point. It’s human arrogance that made them lose their lives in vain. Whoopsies! And there goes your allegory!

See what I’m getting at? You may find one or two (questionable) points to support your theory when writing an editorial, but you ignore all the dozens of reasons speaking against it. Thus, your analytical approach to anime feels very forced.

This has no deeper meaning. It’s just one guy biting another guy’s head off.

Things had reached a new low, though, when Madoka Magica was airing. People seem to worship Urobuchi Gen for reasons which are beyond me. His writing is more like 2derp4u rather than 2deep4u but let’s just leave that aside. Anyway, every now and then, the show would insert some quotes from Goethe’s Faust and there was that whole twisted contract stuff, which made some people go so terribly insane with their Faust blubbering that it made you wonder if they ever read Faust in the first place. Seriously, so many people were jumping on the deepshit bandwagon and all that Faust talk made them wet their pants in utter delight. Shit was pretty damn hilarious. Not as hilarious though as all those bullshit theories people came up with to prove that the show was super deep and had some amazing twists in store for you like reviving characters, witches, and whatnot. Good times, folks, good times.

Anyway, as a German, I’ve read Faust. Well, the first part of it. It was nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing like Madoka Magica. None of Faust’s content gave any reasons to compare Madoka to it. Those comparisons were simply forced and unnecessary. What kind of parallels would you draw between the two of them anyway? There’s a magical pet granting you a wish in exchange for a devilish (or so it would seem) contract. Is this Faustian? Maybe. The circumstances are totally different ones, though, making this comparison seem sort of questionable. Also, said leitmotif with a shady contract isn’t all that unusual at all. In fact, only one season afterwards, C did the same. Is C, too, Faustian? Or does it even matter in the first place whether something is Faustian or not? Fine, let’s say for argument’s sake that Madoka’s premise is Faustian. So what? There aren’t enough parallels between the two works to make to value that as a clever, striking reference. All that can be said is that _both works have something in common to a certain degree_. That’s it. In entertainment media, however, you get to see this every day. Faust and Madoka Magica may have shared a few tropes, but what’s so special about that? The writing doesn’t get any better because of that. Like I said, two entertainment medias sharing some tropes is a common occurrence. So why make such a big deal out of it? Because it’s Faust that is compared to? Because comparing a show to a book that has fame going for it would make the show any better? Hah. You wish. Using the same tropes as something that’s considered a literary masterpiece doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the way the tropes are applied that distinguish a good show from a bad one.

Conclusively, whether something is Faustian or not doesn’t matter as long as there aren’t any particularly clever references to Faust, being worth of praise and Madoka didn’t have those. Anime fans, however, were so obsessed with proving that Madoka is, in fact, Faustian because of some minor resemblances, that it’s safe to assume that they actually thought it mattered.

Now let’s have some cuteness:

You will never have a dragon girl and tease her concerning her first world problem. ;_;

Yet another quite (in)famous term that people came up with during Madoka’s TV airing was “deconstruction”. All of the sudden, “deconstruction” became a word to laud a show, not just a trope. It had acquired the status of a prestige term. So Madoka is a deconstruction? How awesome! Because, you know, a deconstruction is obviously a good thing! It’s not just a writing technique, no, it’s bound to be good!

So once again, people couldn’t stop touching themselves because of a single trope instead of the way it was applied. Then again, if Madoka is to be considered as a deconstruction, isn’t School Days a deconstruction of the harem genre? Or how about Umineko? Isn’t it a deconstruction of the mystery genre? Huh? Come to think of it, doesn’t your definition of what a deconstruction is about apply to a lot of anime? So, err, what’s so special about it then? I don’t remember people hailing School Days for being a deconstruction, not to mention Umineko. What’s with the double standards, folks?

You see, the normative use of terms such as “deconstruction” or “classic tragedy” has become a plague in recent times. Congratulations, you used a descriptive term as a means of praising a show. Now what? Can’t you see that there’s something wrong with that? You tend to abuse positively connotated terms to your own advantage in order to strengthen your line of argumentation (or rather: claims), being completely ignorant of their descriptive meaning. What’s next, people hailing a show as an Aristotelian drama? I wouldn’t put it past some of you.

Anyway, “Madoka Magica is classic, Faustian deconstruction of the magical girl genre.” is supposed to be a sentence mainly formed for the purpose of conveying information to a reader with no implications about the quality of the respective title. Yes, people, you got that right: It’s meant to be information, not evaluation and your horrendously incorrect use of those terms turns them into shallow buzzwords. If you’re that fascinated about applying terms/tropes out of context just so you can praise or damn a show, then join ANN’s writers or something.

So all in all, this is a great demonstration of what an argument between editorial writers would look like:

Shit’s nastier than a public toilet.

On another note: Tsugumi Ohba, the author of DEATH NOTE, was once asked whether it was his intention to include any messages about morals or not. It was a simple question to which he straight-forwarded responded with “No. I just wanted to write something that would entertain people.”. Hah! Just tell them! Tell all those emo teenagers who would love to have a Death Note. Tell them that their questionable life philosophy, based on a Chinese cartoon, never had any support from the author to begin with! It’s all a lie!

So yeah, you lot are basically no better than all those anime newbies who consider Elfen Lied as deep. You basically do the same as them with the sole difference being that you’re just on their next level. That’s all there is to it.

Sure, there are always some exceptions to the norm like TEXHNOLYZE or Pale Cocoon. Some shows do have a message to convey or require you to think and it’s not like there haven’t been any anime worth interpreting in recent times. Shows like UN-GO and Jintai prove otherwise, however, they still belong to the minority of anime. Like I said, those are exceptions. They are not the norm, since the norm is not worth caring for, never mind writing about it. Spending any thoughts on the norm is a waste of time. That’s because you are simply not meant to spend any thoughts on it.

Of course, I’m not hindering you from doing that. If you think you have an aspect to contribute to an ongoing anime, post it. Go on. Convince me that you’re in the right with your interpretation. But this requires some logical reasoning as well as a clear foundation. And I’m afraid that I just can’t see that to happen. Conclusively, one thing I can say for sure: The ‘sphere has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.

Something rather interesting I took note of as well is that some of those people tend to look down on the episodic writers, so pretty much people like me, since being an episodic writer is shallow and they don’t add anything new to the show, no aspects worth discussing. I’m sorry to tell you, but I’m fine with what I’m doing! I’m fine with being generic and ordinary! I’ll never amount a lot to anything and I sure as hell am not blinded enough to think otherwise! I’d rather do all the mediocre, not so attention-seeking stuff than aim for something higher only to fail terribly because I’m too much of a moron to realize it was just not meant to be. I don’t want to pretend that there’s more to anime. I don’t think there’s much to contribute in the first place! Why have ambitions if that requires being totally deluded? You’re no different from all those failures of people who enter some song contests like the X-Factor and ridicule yourself at it. Sorry for being shallow, sorry for not contributing anything to “anime society”, sorry for being fine with the uninspired way I am. I’ll never be a pop star and that’s why I won’t ever register for a song contest. I know my limits. But. You. Go, try and fail. And then act like you’ve amounted to anything. Keep thinking that there’s worth to what you have done, that you’ve been living your dream. Keep deluding yourself.

But don’t you dare think I’m disappointed by your performance. From what I’ve seen so far, the word I’d describe the blogosphere with is “recurring”. Beyond all the episodics and editorials, you get to see the same debates and fads over and over again. It’s a highly repetitive circle which pretty much stems from the fact that there’s not much to say about anime in the first place (mind you, editorial writers beg to differ). Of course things would grow stale and redundant at some point. As of now, the scandals and topic talks of the day have already become numbers. The most recent thing people considered worth discussing was that “lulz rape is bad, isn’t it? Fuck shoujo shows.” thingamajig and that one had more butthurt nerdrage than opinions worth reading. That’s what you’d expect from discussions taking place on /a/.

And before hell breaks loose once more – no, I don’t think episodics are the shit. Most of them are way too dragged out and boring to read. But at least they aren’t pretentious.

Then again, saying “profound” things is what anime fans love to do. As soon as people recognize a certain studio or writer, they’ll immediately start theorizing, telling you about what that means and how everything is bound to be good/okay/shit due to their involvement. Dogakobo doing a josei show for the noitaminA timeslot?! Ugh, there’s going to be a lot of ecchi! ZEXCS doing a shoujo show? Must be smutshit! Okada is involved with an adaptation? Surely she’s going to turn it into a melodramatic trainwreck! An anime was terrible? Well, there must be a reason to that and your explanation with next to no insight whatsoever must be the right one! An episode had a lot of QUALITY? Hah, looks like the budget is about to run out! Or let’s talk about preorder points! That, after all, is where all the self-claimed veterans and experts get their pants wet (on an unrelated sidenote: This is worth a shot).

Anime season previews in particular are full of this shit and I can’t help but shake my head in utter disbelief every time some faggot claims that something is going to about generic fighting just because the source material is being serialized in a shounen magazine (like, say, Shiki). But that’s the way anime fans are and hey! We are bloggers! The stuff we say clearly matters! There’s something profound to what we’re telling you! We are experts! We are free to point at people or things and claim “Hey! He’s the one who’s at fault!” or “Look! This is the reason as to why things took a nosedive!”, because, you know, it’s not like anyone knows any better and could contradict us! We have our own (seemingly obsolete) explanations and that, ladies and gentlemen, is plenty.

It’s not like this is a phenomenon only related to anime fandom, it’s a rather omnipresent matter: Once people gain a little piece of knowledge, they abuse and misinterpret it the way it suits them the most without seeing the greater picture of things. People don’t care about the information itself – it’s the way they apply it or rather make use of it that makes them care about it and sadly, that has led to many idiotic statements so far.

Now let’s put an end to all this shit and move onto a more sophisticated topic:

Would you fuck your cheeseburger?
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6 Responses to When has anime become a field of hermeneutics?

  1. Fadeway says:

    Maybe you could’ve split this to get two more focused posts, one about editorials and over-interpretation and the other about season previews. As it stands, you build an interesting argument about interpretation then go on a short and less-argumented tangent to round off your post. I mean, rampant misuse aside, studio name and other info do provide evidence for predictions, even if that evidence is not strong enough to make those predictions risk-free (for that matter, if someone could predict quality risk-free, Japan might want to hire them). Doesn’t mean everyone should stop previewing – the posts are helpful to people who haven’t been around for years and don’t have favorite studios and own ways of gathering info. The people making previews use the same thinking process and generally watch the same shows they recommend – a preview is basically a reflection of what they thought when they were choosing what to watch. If there’s a miss chance with previews, does that mean they shouldn’t be done at all? Because while there are some really terrible posts, most choose to base theirs on some sort of anime common sense, presenting it to people who haven’t been around long enough to acquire it. They’re not a science and it’s assumed that there are always gonna be a few misses per post, and if anything ticks me off when reading one, it’s mentions of obscure stuff that’s unlikely to have any effect on the adaptation and is just there to make the reader think “Whoa, obscure, this guy is at such a high level, his insider knowledge is bound to be true [and there’s gonna be no mistakes in these predictions]”.

    Anyway, back to interpretation. I love it. I’m bombarded by this shit twice a week in literature class, except at much higher levels of ridiculous and on topics I don’t care about. No, from today’s standpoint ancient greek writers weren’t producing awesome, they were bad, just like their philosophers, mathematicians, [al]chemists and rocket scientists were bad – it’s just the definition of progress that whatever was made earlier is worse due to an improvement in methods. No, if you have to force me to read this boring patriotical piece [of ….] written a hundred years ago, it’s not timeless – it’s boring and would’ve been long forgotten except by a niche of nationalistic literature geeks/elitists if not for grandparents voting those same elitists in the education ministry. Luckily I’m studying Informatics in Germany next year, so my freedom is almost at hand. It’s my personal conclusion after a decade of torture by humanists that you can’t, as a writer, imbue something with meaning (work on the meta level), if you haven’t beforehand made it worth reading (work on the ground level). And that’s the thing with anime, we love it and watch it without having been forced into it, and thus we like interpreting it from time to time. And here we hit the old question – does it matter what the author intended? In my opinion, it doesn’t. And if the author actually writes with the intent to produce a particular interpretation that should be unveiled by the interested critic, they’re a pretentious elitist, unless they’re going for a “solid” message (stated with some clarity and argumented, as opposed to noticeable by a 5% of watchers and merely the abstract unfeasible idea or criticism of some idealist who is unhappy the world doesn’t work the way he wants it to). Jintai, for example, didn’t seem to have a clear, overarching statement to make on the meta-level. It provided clues for interpretation and was lots of fun to watch. Whether those clues were part of an actual message (probably pretentious), or just value providers – I don’t know. I do know though that since interpreting is fun, anything that facilitates it has positive utility in a show, as long as the show is good enough from the onset; hence, hooks like this are great to have, as they bring fun. Conclusion: Faust references in Madoka are a positive thing (I actually missed all of them, despite reading the whole book in German as the show was airing).

  2. Baphomet says:

    I would go even further and say that those exceptions you mentioned are even rarer than you make it seem. In my experience, the cases where you actually think about a show are mostly cases of so-called fridge logic. And those titles you mentioned? In Jintai’s case at least, I was under the impression that I had to recognize the quick jabs at whatever and keep watching rather than ponder on them.

    Handing down such a rigorous verdict is doing some of them an injustice. That’s right, not every piece of ancient Greek (or Roman or Arabian or Chinese) literature is awesome, but we don’t look up to it because we think it is. We look up to the ancient Greek because they set standards.

  3. krizzlybear says:

    Can’t say I disagree with a number of points that you make, but I can’t help but feel that the dichotomy between editorial and episodic is forced at best, and at the expense of getting into yet another pointless discussion about the two (I’ve rolled my eyes several times at the twitter discourse of this particular topic), I don’t see any particular difference between the two other than that episodic is restricted to talking about episodes of a show, whereas editorials aren’t. You can still have that overanalysis and allusion in episodics (Madoka, Penguindrum when it first aired), just as you can have generic and ordinary editorials about the most meaningless topics (pretty much anything I write).

    I get your gripe that the aniblogosphere is saturated with intellectuals directing their mental energy towards consumption of this medium. It’s become (or rather, always been, your mileage may vary) an echo chamber of sorts, self-indulgent in profound discussion, justified by recognition from an audience of their peers, distinct in that they simply choose not to write analytical posts, preferring to read them instead. I personally feel that it’s not so much the varying quality of the analysis that drives me away from reading this new wave of intellectual blogging, but rather the varying quality of “writing” that communicates those types of insights, as deep or as mundane as they are.

    As an “aspiring writer” (a bullshit term, if you ask me; if you write, you’re a writer, period), I simply use my blog as a way to keep writing when I’m not writing fiction. The reason why I write about anime is because I /like it/, and it gives me something to write /about/. While I don’t necessarily give two shits about whether or not my logic about a particular topic is flawed or if my argument is poorly constructed (it shows at times, if not most of the time, tbh), I’m in it simply for the outlet of being able to write at all, and I feel the same goes for many people who blog in the first place, in and out of anime fandom. I get the feeling that you’re in the same boat here, episodic posts et al.

    That said, it’s quite clear that I happened upon this post due to the link to yuyucow’s guest post. I don’t fully understand the nuances of preorder metrics (the sabermetrics of anime, if you will), but I do appreciate his attempt to shed some light on that approach, at least from an outsider’s standpoint.

  4. ZakuAbumi says:

    “Maybe you could’ve split this to get two more focused posts, one about editorials and over-interpretation and the other about season previews.”
    I think you’re a bit mistaken. The second part of this post wasn’t specifically about bloggers failing at doing season previews but just an example of how some bloggers just love to say some “profound” things with quite nonsensical consequences.

    “studio name and other info do provide evidence for predictions”
    Yes, they do. I don’t hold anything against writing previews, in fact, I like writing preview posts myself. Nevertheless, there’s a clear line between a prediction with a solid basis and unfounded bullshit. F.e., “This is a KyoAni show so one can expect good animation and competent production in general” is a valid statement. “OreImo is done by AIC which also did Hourou Musuko so expect great things from it!” is not. Also, generalizing studios can be quite misleading. Sure, there are studios like KyoAni where you basically know what to expect from them, but what about, say, Sunrise and its various sub-studios? You can’t really predict the technical merits of, for instance, Phi Brain if you’re comparing it to Code Geass or Horizon. It’s also the frequent misuse of labels like “Shounen” or “Seinen” in particular that pisses me of as it solely stems from the motivation of making comparisons just so you can show how much “insight” you’ve got, using several jargon terms, whereas, in fact, you’re just spreading bullshit (have some further elaboration on this matter). Sure, there are people who know a lot about the industry, directors and animators, people like raito-kun or liborek, just to name a few but those are in the minority. Ironically, they only rarely participate in blog activities, have next to no connection to the blogosphere and refrain from making exaggerated, obsolete statements.
    So season previews yes, elitist bullshit with no substance no.

    “it’s just the definition of progress that whatever was made earlier is worse due to an improvement in methods.”
    Taking a diachronic look at literature (or various other things), this may apply to some books but certainly not to all. Forming a general rule in this case would be questionable.

    “And here we hit the old question – does it matter what the author intended? In my opinion, it doesn’t.”
    Of course there’s always risk involved with asking the author. Authors, too, can simply lie to you. However, this is no excuse for deepshit interpretations with a very weak basis if any at all.

    “Jintai, for example, didn’t seem to have a clear, overarching statement to make on the meta-level. It provided clues for interpretation and was lots of fun to watch. Whether those clues were part of an actual message (probably pretentious), or just value providers – I don’t know.”
    I think you misunderstood something – I’m not saying that interpreting anime is a bad thing and that people should refrain from doing so. My point simply is that with most anime, there’s no basis for interpretation and that if you come up with an interpretation, there better be some valid reasoning. I could come up with a solid foundation to the claim that Jintai offers some social commentary, that would be considered as a “legit interpretation”. However, neglecting all the points contradicting your interpretation and lacking any a solid basis as demonstrated in the example of HxH is my main reason for complaint.

    “I don’t know. I do know though that since interpreting is fun, anything that facilitates it has positive utility in a show, as long as the show is good enough from the onset; hence, hooks like this are great to have, as they bring fun. Conclusion: Faust references in Madoka are a positive thing”
    Now this is a weak argument. Your personal enjoyment you take in a show for completely arbitrary reasons can hardly stand in relation to the show’s overall quality. That’s like me saying “I like Madoka’s hair color. It’s pink. I take enjoyment in pink so obviously, Madoka’s hair color is a positive thing, worthy of mentioning in an evaluation.”. (No, I don’t like pink.)
    So, at the end of this, all you did was prove that there is some personal use for interpretation (which I certainly don’t disagree with) but none of my arguments were weakened.

    “that the dichotomy between editorial and episodic is forced at best, and at the expense of getting into yet another pointless discussion about the two”
    Mind you, I don’t really care about those two and I take no interest in discussing about which one of the two is the better one. I also don’t believe there’s some dichotomy present, since, as you correctly pointed out, some of it depends on the execution. It can be said, however, that people choose one of these two formats for a reason and that there is, indeed, a significant difference between the two of them. From what I’ve seen so far, most episodic reviews are, surprise, surprise, just reviews, whereas with editorials, the author usually tries to make a point. This, however, is where it gets interesting: To reviewing episodes, there are no significant hindrances involved. Granted, one can assume that sooner or later, things will get redundant if a person keeps reviewing episodes of the same show since most likely, there won’t occur any drastic changes in the person or the show (which sometimes leads to episodic writers developing a rather comically cynic stance). Nevertheless, this is not a major problem whereas with editorials, you need a solid basis for your points and there’s a problem: Most anime don’t have that. Most anime are shallow. So, in order to support their points, some editorial writers come up with some bullshit reasoning, thus making their content feel very moronic and forced.

    “I don’t fully understand the nuances of preorder metrics (the sabermetrics of anime, if you will), but I do appreciate his attempt to shed some light on that approach, at least from an outsider’s standpoint.”
    Ah, please don’t get me wrong. I linked Yuyucow’s post for the sole reason that I consider it as an appropriate example of disproving a lot of exaggerated, seemingly obsolete sales predictions.

  5. Fadeway says:

    Thanks for the clarifications on some points, and for the links. My rss feed just grew a tiny bit.

    “Your personal enjoyment you take in a show for completely arbitrary reasons can hardly stand in relation to the show’s overall quality.”
    How would a show’s quality be evaluated if not for the viewer’s personal enjoyment? You employ two words: “arbitrary” and “personal”. “Personal” accenting on the fact that that’s something only I enjoy, and is thus irrelevant. Alas, others enjoy it as well, and not just one or two of them either – otherwise you wouldn’t even be talking about interpretation.

    Also, apparently I misunderstood you again: You specifically say that we’re talking about cases where there are no “hooks” in the show for viewers to interpret; where viewers just make them up because they’re passionate for anime and like interpreting. Reading those is still fun, though your usage of the word “arbitrary” tells me that you don’t share my sentiment. I would restrain myself from upvoting an anime whose interpretations were obvious asspulls, even if they were fun to read – no hooks, no value provided by the show itself.

    I like Madoka’s hair color. It’s pink. I take enjoyment in pink so obviously, Madoka’s hair color is a positive thing. You should see my male sylvari in GW2.

  6. I don’t have so much a problem with overanalyzing something – which IS quit anoying – than with those displaying their own point of view as some kind of universal truth.
    But I can’t even hold that against them because we’re made to think this way. Our educational systems have two big faults concerning text analysis 1, we’re made to believe that EVERYTHING has a meaning, from the way a certain phrase is used to the way a punctuation mark is set and 2, that there is one, maybe two ‘real’ interpretations we have to discover and disregard everything else.

    Having studied literature (not in the sense that I’ve read a whole lot, but I really went to university for this stuff) I’ve seen my fair share of bullshit. No, I’m not saying I can do better than anyoe else or that my opinion must be true. But I can say that I at least know my stuff and where to look and whatever for in an interpretation.

    First of all one must know about the author, and I mean really KNOW. His/her mindset, his/her enviroment, the time setting for the novel, the influence put into it, all kind of petty and boring stuff there is. And even then one can never be sure if the author INTENDED any of what we as the audience see or read into his work. And seeing as anime isn’t really made by one person only this will get pretty tough and almost impossible to do.
    But an author puts a menaing into his/her writing. Most of the time it’s just a matter of how well that goes and as stated above, if the outcome is intended. I guess people who like to analyze sometimes try to see what was probably meant and what COULD HAVE BEEN the thought process behind it, which just comes across as analyzing yet all they do is going for the impossible – trying to figure out the what ifs behind bad/mediocre/clumsy/sterotypical writing. You mentioned Baccano so I’m just rolling with that:
    The anime itself isn’t very deep, that’s true. But then there’s Vino and his way of thinking he’s immortal because he’s the only person in this whole wide world that’s real. That’s pretty deep philosophy right there called solipsism, yet I don’t know if the author of the novels had a book about Descartes lying around or if he just thought ‘Well, Vino is very arrogant and so he should think the world revolves around him wheeeee’. Still doesn’t make Baccano any deeper but Vino as a character might become rounder as opposed to flat (look it up anyone not familiar with those categories)

    What I want to say boils down to this – a person is allowed to search for deeper meaning given the right hints and heck, even the right alusions if he or she chooses to (like Faust – Madoka). BUT it will never be a truth and no one has any right to push it on other people, which makes this whole overalnalyzing so bad. I had a terrible professor who did just that and it was one of the most disgusting and wrong experiences I’ve had dealing with literature ever (and I’m part of the CLAMP and Final Fantasy fandom, which says a lot!)
    If there is no Word of God from the author him/herself, all the reader can do is speculate. Who says Goethe didn’t write Faus just for shit and giggles and we treat it like High Literature? Contemporary author Stephen King wrote all of his famous books under the heavy influence of alcohol and drugs, he sometimes didn’t even remember what he wrote or that he wrote anything at all. Should we really search for any kind of sophisticated deeper meaning in his works?

    Yes authors will always be influenced by something, but that probably boils down to one or two influential scenes or if we’re lucky some round characters. Most of anime is flawed as fuck and holds no DEEP LIFECHANGING EXPERIENCE.
    So I say yes to this post.

    (I wrote gibberish me thinks…….. but I’ve just finished watching Madoka and may be excused for being kinda unfocused. Just carry on!)

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