Quick Aside on Critical Media Appreciation


I feel that my experiences talking with the anime community have forced me to acknowledge too many flaws in shows I used to enjoy, thus lessening my enjoyment of anime. Do you think this is a necessary consequence of engaging with the anime community?


The process that you’re ascribing to the internet here is basically “forcing me to apply critical thinking to my media”. To me, this is the opposite of a bad thing; stress-testing my opinions on and off the internet has helped me become a more discerning and critically-minded human being. Moving from simply enjoying or not enjoying a show to appreciating the thousand pieces that make up its artistic DNA is like stepping out from black and white Kansas into technicolor Oz.

There are so many shows that really reward a deeper look, and you can still enjoy any show you connect to while also being aware it’s not a perfect work. In fact, sometimes I actually enjoy shows for their flaws – often what a director was trying to say is most apparent in the way their show fails or overreaches, and if I weren’t looking for things like this, I’d just think “bad” and miss the humanity of the show. For me, a critical eye for media only enhances my appreciation of anime.

On the other hand, I think the specific point that discussion on the internet has helped me realize is that enjoyment and aesthetic respect or appreciation are two very different things. I can enjoy mediocre shows because they appeal to me while acknowledging they’re mediocre; I can respect well-crafted shows that don’t appeal to me without feeling obligated to watch them. Being able to look at media critically shouldn’t stop you from liking what you like.

4 thoughts on “Quick Aside on Critical Media Appreciation

  1. An important takeaway for people here is to learn to separate enjoyment from evaluation. This is a difficult lesson for some, as it sometimes means that you can’t gush with all your heart sans caveats. It is, however, completely possible to love something while acknowledging its flaws (see human relationships…as well as SyFy original films =]).

    • I think because anime is sort of held up as some bastion of low art/entertainment, many of its fans get kind of defensive about applying standard art criticism to it. But yeah, acknowledging something has flaws in no way means you have to like it less – people are all wired differently, and respond to different things.

      • This may seem a little out there, but do you think it has anything to do with the sexual nature of much anime and those sorts of bonds that many viewers form with characters? It might help account for the heightened sensitivity.

        • I think it’s based on a sort of cumulative group of things, of which the sex angle definitely is a part. I think a lot of fans consider their anime appreciation a sort of “judgment-free zone” where they can indulge in things that appeal to them that they wouldn’t be all that public about normally, and bringing art criticism into that kind of attacks the bubble of that space. This is tangentially linked to the idea of “untroubled, nostalgic worlds” that I think lies at the core of shows like K-On and accounts for their appeal… at some point, I really need to set down my full thoughts on that topic.

          I also think anime is valued as fantastical escapism in a more personal way than most media – this also links to the bonds you’re proposing. And again, the introduction of critical analysis directly confronts that instinct, and it can be difficult to reconcile the two. In general, I think the point you brought up is a piece of the more general point that people consider their media preferences a part of themselves, and so criticizing what they love can come off as an attack on them as well.

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