“You’re Watching It Wrong”

I made a lot of people mad a little while ago. Angry forum threads, capslock responses filling up my ask.fm inbox, the whole nine yards. I even heard people were planning on emailing my editor! It was an exciting time for everyone, but I can’t say I didn’t deserve it. I did something that, if you’re truly, deeply attached to your experience of a media object, can be absolutely unforgivable.

I watched a show wrong.

Unlimited Blade Works

The show in question was Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. In my ANN review of the first half, I mentioned that while starting the franchise with UBW was fine, I personally recommended watching Fate/Zero first, since it enriched your understanding of UBW’s character dynamics. Certain fans did not take kindly to this suggestion – apparently, watching Fate/Zero first ruins the entire experience, and it’s just not objectively possible for starting with Fate/Zero to provide a better experience than the correct viewing order. Who knew?

This all seemed mainly funny to me at the time, and offered a good opportunity to win some heated debates through careful gif deployment, but it was also deeply reflective of a general viewer instinct, something closely related to the stuff I discussed in my No Politics post a little while ago. As I said in that piece, the idea of removing politics from reviews indicates a misunderstanding of the fundamental nature of our relationship with media, and with the world itself. Talking about some “objective” style of criticism denies the multiplicity of perspectives that always informs how we engage with media, what we get out of the shows we watch, and the very world we see. But the desires that underpin this frustration at critics for “watching shows wrong” comes from a very human place – the desire to connect with others, and to share and celebrate what is meaningful to you.

Unlimited Blade Works

Fate/stay night offers a uniquely clear illustration of this because the work itself has such a fractured genealogy. It began as a visual novel, and has since then had its first route adapted by Deen, its second route adapted into a movie, and its prequel adapted into Fate/Zero. Now we’re coming back to it with Unlimited Blade Works, but the question of a “correct viewing order” remains. Unlimited Blade Works is the second route, so should you begin with the Deen adaptation? Well, apparently that adaptation both incorporates elements of the visual novel’s other two routes and also just isn’t very good. So should you start with Fate/Zero? Apparently that gives away lots of big twists from the later Fate material, so perhaps not. How about just starting with the new series, then? Well, apparently then you miss the interplay of character development present across the three routes of the original.

The final answer, at least among the Fate megafans, pretty much always comes down to “read the visual novel first.” Which would all be well and good, if the original didn’t come with its own “quirks” (which are debatable and not the topic of this article, but for me personally include very bad pacing and very purple prose), as well as exist in a medium that many people just aren’t that interested in. But, the fans say, that’s the only way to get the correct experience! Which implies there is a correct experience, and that anyone else would be capable of attaining that correct experience if they simply engaged with the media in the same way you did. Which pretty much underlines the understandable psychology of “the original is always better.”

Unlimited Blade Works

You hear it when it comes to TV shows, when it comes to movies, when it comes to anime – “the adaptation ruins everything, just check out the original instead.” Sometimes this is true – adaptations don’t always have noble priorities in mind, sometimes they’re just envisioned as glorified commercials or ways of capitalizing on current trends (people liked Hunger Games? Jeez, what other dystopian fiction can we adapt?). But beyond that, the personal truth of adaptations is that if you’re an existing fan, the original will always be the one you emotionally connected with, and thus want to share with others. When an adaptation doesn’t prioritize the things that gave you your emotional experience of the original (and they almost never do, both because different mediums have different strengths and because your personal experience of the original isn’t the universal experience people will draw from it), you feel frustrated, because it feels like the adaptation is squandering an opportunity to both validate your existing experience and give more people the opportunity to share that experience. And so the original is always “better,” because your personal experience of the original encapsulates what you wanted others to experience, what you hoped an adaptation would bring to more people.

Fans (and by this I mean “people invested in a particular media object” – I’m not highlighting a specific group, everyone does this) want others to share their experience of media. They want to be validated, sure, but they also just want others to share their happiness. Media tells us things about ourselves, and we want to celebrate these connections, and find them in others. This is part of why we get hopeful about adaptations, and disappointed when they fail to capture what we loved. If ten fans of a particular property were given infinite resources to adapt it into a blockbuster movie, you’d end up with ten very different movies – but when you’re united in general love of some property, the distinctions between what we individually draw from our media are less important than our communal celebration of the thing that is meaningful to all of us.

Unlimited Blade Works

And then this goes bad. The desire to have others share your experience of media is a natural thing, but when it moves into getting angry at critics for sharing their experience of media, the “wrong” experience, you get complaints about “objective criticism.” People get mad at reviews for focusing on the “wrong things” because they’re “misleading” audiences, tricking people into enjoying or avoiding stuff that should be respectively avoided or enjoyed. An underlying belief in the primacy of your media experience can ultimately foster a sense of entitlement, as fans get angry at seeing people who have platforms “misusing” them to spread lies about media. This righteous anger is part of what makes commenters feel that writers are “obligated” to respond to them, and give them their own counter-platform to address the injustices the critic is perpetrating. It’s part of what makes people furious when someone turns off comments on Youtube, or blocks people on twitter. “How dare you not voice my personal truth!”

This doesn’t just go in a “stop critiquing wrong” direction, either. The belief in the primacy of your media experience is what makes people say that others are “lying” about their experience of media. “I didn’t get much out of Revolutionary Girl Utena, therefore there’s nothing there – you’re just lying to look smart, your experience wasn’t actually different from mine.” Ditto for “Monogatari is just smut that people lie about to look smart,” or any one of a thousand other “your experience wasn’t mine, so it can’t be valid” arguments. And this gets even worse when it comes to stuff like charges of sexism in media, since inherent in that charge is the idea that fans who see nothing wrong with it are missing the sexism, and thus might themselves harbor sexist assumptions. It’s no wonder that talking about media online very often just reduces to people screaming past each other.

Unlimited Blade Works

Which is a shame. I’m not sure what the solution here is, beyond just “constantly reiterating that our experiences of media are tremendously complex and based in an interlocking web of the personal, cultural, and aesthetic.” Or by hammering in that positivity and mutual respect in these conversations is the only way people with wholly different realities might come to some kind of understanding. Or by offering the easy truism that we’re all here because media means something important to us, and we should at least be able to celebrate that together, if nothing else.

Or maybe I should just stop watching shows wrong.

62 thoughts on ““You’re Watching It Wrong”

  1. Interesting article. You touched on some good points for why fans react the way they do about a media as well as your thoughts on some better methods for sharing views of something.

    Now why do I get the feeling this shall fly over the heads of the Nasu fans regardless? 😀

    • The Nasu fanbase is older and more dedicated than many a visual/ light novel adaptation fanbase today. They have a serious love for their universe, and I seriously respect that at times.

      Then someone mentions “watching order” and I am immediately reminded of why I don’t associate with them.

  2. This is exactly the sort of thing that exists in games, it even has a catchy name, which would be “Git Gud” – the insinuation that if you don’t like a game, if you didn’t get it (meaning, agree with its design decisions), it’s not because you’ve made a rational disagreement born out of said understanding, but that you’re just bad at it. The article I just linked ends up making the same point – some fans don’t actually desire different opinions, they want to hear their opinion again.

    If ten fans of a particular property were given infinite resources to adapt it into a blockbuster movie, you’d end up with ten very different movies.

    I’m actually not sure this is true, and for interesting reasons. A lot of the time I avoid reading the thoughts of source-material fans regarding adaptations on anime because they’re usually amazingly black and white, and on predictable lines:

    1) “I was waiting so long to see this sequence animated! YESSSSS!”

    2) “They changed it, and it sucks. Here are all the things they changed and you might have missed which give the scene/show the proper context/orient your mind as to what is to come.”

    The second is what you’re talking about, and ensures you watch the show as they read it, and remove the ability to get something else out of the show by pointing out all the things they care for and remove all the things that you’d have picked up on because “later material contradicts it.”

    On one hand, yes, it brings forth room for each fan to focus on different things, but it often seems as if the “mega-fans'” desire for a good adaptation is one that removes or changes nothing, but adapts line for line, scene for scene, thought for thought, what was in the original.

    You’d get the same movie from those ten fans, and it’d be 10 hours long and not very good. Now, if you got ten fans to make 10 movies that are sane/know what adaptations are about, they’d be 10 different films, but this entire post is about how some of those fans don’t know that very thing.

    Yes, the claim for “objectivity” is misguided, but you can get an “objective adaptation”, it’d just be terrible.

    P.S. I really hate the history revisionism about how nobody likes DEEN’s Fate/Stay Night adaptation. It’s just an artifact of the Type Moonies’ voice being the loudest and rational people being rational enough to move on. It’s not amazing, and it didn’t age the best, but it was quite popular and well thought of back around 2007-2009. I’d also recommend that as the starting point for anime F/SN fans. There, I said it 😛

    • True. From the “the original was absolutely perfect in every way” megafans, you’d likely see some extremely long and tedious movies. I do think they’d prioritize different things, though – even when a fandom seems totally unified in some specific like or dislike, there’s differences in what specifically people respond to. This is actually something I noticed most strongly in the opposite direction, with regards to people criticizing SAO. Though I saw many people in the “SAO sucks” camp, once you got away from that collective voice, their reasons often ended up being totally different and frequently contradictory.

      • Well, when lots of people say that something sucks for many different reasons, you know you’ve got a work that tried to be 10,000 different things at once and managed to fail at every single one of them.

        SAO in a nutshell.

        • That’s a flimsy argument.

          I can find you with 5 minutes of searching about 10 different reasons people say NGE or Madoka sucked.

          Just as there are many people who like something for different reasons, there are many people who dislike something for many reasons. Heck, many people who like/dislike something also dislike/like (the reverse) specific aspects of it. Now remove the “like”, and you end with people disliking your favourite shows and even thinking they’re sucking, often for reasons you agree with – they just give them more weight in their overall impression.

          They are, in short, coming to the show for something else than you, or what the show is interested in doing.

          • It wasn’t much of an argument, more like a joke. Though I mean it when I say SAO tried to be too many things at once, all poorly.

            And it isn’t like NGE and Madoka are untouchable paragons of perfection either. NGE tried to be a lot of things that actually failed to be (like with its terribly ill-researched judeo-christian symbolism), though it also did things right. I think all in all you’ll probably find that with both of those the people who liked them outnumber those who didn’t, while with SAO it’s probably the other way around. It’s not like there’s any reasonable data on that, so it’s just a rough, unscientific impression.

          • It was an analogy. That NGE and Madoka aren’t perfect is exactly the point I’m making. People have different reasons to like things, and different reasons to dislike things. And people who like or dislike a show often notice the same things, just give them different weights.

            You picked SAO because you disliked it. And you’re biased in your anecdotal guess. Going by MAL, if we rank 7 and above as “liked it”, then you’re at over 83% “like”. Being a “gateway anime” style, most people who aren’t much into anime and don’t use MAL tend to like this sort of show.

  3. Good essay.

    That said, this is not the first time I heard about these ideas and probably won’t be the last. Yet the fans never listen. Every shows with hardcore fandom are full of those who insist on the “correct interpretation” and “true watch order”. In the west, there’re the Lord of the Rings fans who tell me things like “if you don’t cry on this scene, you’re not a true fan”. Or the Doctor Who fan who said “you must watch this ep, if you don’t like it, you won’t like the rest”. Or “if you think Toy Story 3 is overrated, you have not grown up”.

    The fans often seek out those who think like them, attacking everyone with different opinion. This is why many forums have some kind of hidden rules that are accepted by its frequent visitors. For example, if you visited r/movies, most of them will say that Crash is terrible, Avatar is overrated and Michael Bay sucks. In another forum, saying that Avatar is overrated, hundreds of its defenders will try kill you. Elitist fans visit forum or channel to confirm their opinion, not to challenge it.

    • “you must watch this ep, if you don’t like it, you won’t like the rest”

      That’s slightly different though, it usually means “I think this episode summarizes in itself the qualities of the show at their peak, so if you don’t like it, it’s likely you won’t care about the rest either”. It’s a reasonable assumption, though it still is affected by one’s personal viewpoint and tastes – or understanding of the other person’s viewpoint and tastes, at the very least. But then again, that’s ALWAYS the problem with suggesting/commenting on shows. We can never know 100% what the other people will think of them, just extrapolate reasonable approximations.

    • There is a perhaps slight but certainly important distinction between the idea of a “correct watch order” and a “correct interpretation”. A “correct” watch order only implies a correct way to watch/experience a certain thing in order to to form your own interpretation, which could then be anything. Not to say there aren’t people who push their own interpretation as the only “correct” one, there certainly are, but you can believe in a correct watch order but not a “correct” interpretation.

    • Ah, yes, the Doctor Who fandom. I find it quite frustrating with them, because I really quite like the show, but I’ve never cried over it. The writing is frequently quite bad and the stories often lack a lot of originality. Remarkably often it’s the actors who elevate the material to a watchable level. These are all things one can’t say in conversation with a Whovian. I still watch and enjoy it, but to me it’s so very far from perfect that every Whovian thinks I’m some kind of heartless monster.

  4. I have a lot to say, so let me preface that I am one of those dreaded fans of Nasu, a bonafide Type-Lunatic (which I believe is far more creative than Type-Moonie and is equally apt). I’ve read and enjoyed virtually every Type-Moon work, and I’m one of the few people who actually likes Nasu’s word vomit. I differ from the ones so feared, however, in that I like to think I’m not appallingly misogynistic and also don’t belabor people over viewing order, or try to impress on them that everything Nasu writes is high art (because it isn’t).

    My first foray into the Type-Moon universe was Fate/Zero. I’ve since read the VN, read every other Fate work, and am currently watching and enjoying UBW. Unlike other Type-Lunatics (I like this term and will stick to it), I consider Zero the greater work and Urobuchi the greater writer. I consider Fate/Stay Night quite good, with nothing objectionable about it besides appalling sexism and appalling sex scenes, just not on the same level as Zero.

    I am not concerned with viewing order. If you watch Zero first, your viewing experience of UBW will be enhanced. If you watch UBW first, your viewing experience of Zero will be enhanced, as was intended but not as is necessary. If you read the VN then Zero will be enhanced for you and depending on how much you liked the VN your reaction to UBW will vary. While I won’t dismiss it for specific individuals, I wouldn’t recommend the VN as a general rule, because Jesus Christ it’s long and asking someone to hunt down a decade old game or spend a weekend reading through a Let’s Play archive is sort of ridiculous. Nasu’s prose is only for those who like it and that’s not the general population at all.

    I agree with everything you said in this essay. The primacy of initial experience almost seems an inherent human quality in how apparent it is, and it’s a problem that hampers communication between parties. VN fans and purists rage that people aren’t doing it the right way, their opposite is confused about what’s wrong with the viewing order they recommend. (there isn’t anything wrong the Type Lunatics are invariably in the wrong with their inflexibility regarding the not important viewing order).

    It’s a fairly common phenomenon. When Tokyo Ghoul was airing and the adaptation was butchered (I’m not saying it’s objectively bad by any means, but in terms of adapting the manga, it was a failure), the people who read the manga responded with outrage and seething anger and insisted that people go read the manga which is so much better, and bemused anime-onlies would go ¨Í’m fine with what I’m watching right now; I’m not really a manga person.¨ And both of them have valid points.

    And you’re absolutely right that it hurts and makes angry fans when people view things ‘wrongly’. This is especially true when an adaptation fails to convey something. Caster’s backstory that explains her ideology and motivations was cut from the UBW anime in favor of anime-original content about her Master (incidentally, the kanji that make up his name can be taken to mean Atomic Gatorade). Anime-onlies then don’t understand her character, don’t really care when she die, and people who have read the VN cry out in despair ¨nooo she really is cool you guys read the VN or at least let me write an essay and convey to you how awesome she is¨.

    And of course, any sane person would politely decline, because it’s not a big concern by any stretch. Nobody can be said to be in the wrong as long as all of this on both sides is polite and amicable. (and with Type-Lunatics it often isn’t)

    The same thing is true of Shirou’s character, which has far more nuance than the anime easily conveys (you may now proceed to laugh at me for suggesting that sexist maniac Nasu is capable of nuance), and how people react. I’ve yet to pick up a single anime-only or reviewer pick up on all the subtle little nuances and properly peg him as a character and that frustrates me when it shouldn’t, this is their experience and it’s fine is what I want to rationally say to myself. I’m frustrated a character I feel strongly about is being pegged wrong or not picked up on, and those opposite would be frustrated by yet another Type-Lunatic trying to force on them material they don’t care for and don’t want to read.

    Gabby’s line about Shirou’s character, ‘ultra-masculine’, has been laughed at on the most prominent of Type-Moon fan websites, Beast’s Lair (oddly enough the mega fans there keep to themselves and are pretty chill about viewing order) quite a lot. And the divide is sad. Type-Lunatics lounge and laugh at how wrong the reviewers are, reviewers laugh at those crazy misogynists who praise Nasu and try to say what they’ve watched and enjoyed is wrong, and that their ideas are wrong. It’s sad. I myself admit to being frustrated by Gabbomatic’s analysis (why doesn’t she get it damn it), and you’re right, I wish I could contact her and talk with her about it when that really isn’t a feasible action and mostly comes across as arrogant.

    Type-Lunatics have a deserved reputation as a bunch of idiots because the only people who talk with the anime-onlies are the Nasu purists who try to force their viewing order on others. The non-idiots keep to themselves and don’t often try to have meaningful talks, moreso because their reputation has been tainted. If you’re a fan of Nasu, the perception is that you’re sexist. He was sexist. Fate/Stay Night has a lot of sexist content. But he wrote it eleven years ago and people still belaboring him about the sex scenes he was only partly involved in just makes me go ¨._.¨, like, it was eleven years ago people can change.

    (And now I’ve used your website as a forum for my ‘right’ opinion and in doing so have fulfilled the prophecy of your essay, go me.)

    tl;dr I wish the non-crazies of the Type-Moon fandom could bridge the divide between us and the anime-onlies and have meaningful discussion, and I wish it was socially acceptable to send an essay about Shirou’s nuance to every anime reviewer ever but that’s not the case and that frustrates me but I’ve learned to live with it and VN purists need to learn to live with it too.

    • From reading this, it seems like the more reasonable Fate fans have come to pretty much the same conclusion I have when I feel sad someone else isn’t enjoying something the way I did – there’s nothing you can do but let it go. Even if the information that dictated your reaction to a work was specifically bullet pointed out for someone else, that wouldn’t change their experience of the work. And with UBW, it seems like you’re saying the show as it exists basically assumes you have all the character backstory of the VN, which works for VN fans, but not really much help for people treating it as a new work. And so the great fan war rages on…

      • Yeah, basically. From the perspective of a VN fan, I do believe you’re probably the one giving FSN the fairest shake in terms of analysis of all the reviewers I know of, if that qualifies as a compliment (or perhaps being praised by a Type-Lunatic is insulting I have no idea.)

        The Caster stuff is more or less not there, though there are some way too subtle indications, but the Shirou stuff is more or less present just often too subtle to pick up on, and I’d say it’s an achievement for someone with no prior knowledge of him to pick up on most of him as well, so your analysis powers be cool.

        • I mostly agree with you. You seem to have had the same journey with Type-Moon as me (Fate/Zero, then the rest), though I think we mostly differ on the sexism stuff. I didn’t found the sex scenes (even the more objectionable ones) appalling or sexist or misogynistic. It’s still just fiction, and drawing such broad conclusions about a fan-base or creator just because of some scenes you found objectionable seems a bit silly to me.

          Bobduh is in my opinion often just as bad as the people he berates, he just puts it a lot more eloquently. I think criticizing a (rabid or not) fan-base with broad (and often wrong) statements is just as morally wrong as complaining that someone didn’t watch a show correctly. He’s leaving very little room for discussion, because everyone who disagrees (even a little) with him automatically ends up on the wrong side (the sexist, misogynistic side, in this case).

          I don’t have a problem with his reviews or his views. He is always pretty damn clear from what angle he is tackling a show and I think his Fate reviews have been very fair. I just don’t fully agree with them, and that should be fine too.

          • I repeatedly state in this piece that these are general issues you could apply to any number of arguments. You’re projecting a lot onto this piece that isn’t actually there – I don’t even mention sexism related to Fate, I just mention that as being a particularly charged online touchstone.

          • I was referring to more posts than just this one, though this response was mostly spurred on by this bit: “…stuff like charges of sexism in media…” as I feel you yourself have been very guilty of claiming sexism where none exists in the past. That combined with the mentions of it in ScarfDyedRed’s post is why I focused on that.

            You’re completely right that it wasn’t a very well written or thought out response, I just rambled off a few things that I had on my mind reading your blogs for the past few months. Please don’t take it too serious or personal, you’re still heads above most other anime reviewers ;P

            I’ve been wanting to write a more in-depth and accurate response to some of the things you’ve written these past months, mostly about the objectivity thing, because I don’t think you’re presenting the opposing arguments fairly. But I really should put off writing baseless responses like my previous one until I actually do that.

          • If Bobduh has misidentified sexism, which I haven’t seen while following him closely for a good while now, fate is certainly not one of those misidentifications. Firstly, he has not even made any claims other than the Saber in a white dress stuff, which is deserved. And the FSN VN Fate route is incredibly sexist, focusing on feminizing saber and forcing her into a female role.

          • When the first act of said feminization was gender-bending freakin’ King Arthur himself. Imagine a yaoi F S/N where King Arthur is instead a handsome bishie and Shirou still has to do that whole “mana exchange” thing with him giggle

    • incidentally, gabby has actually read at least the first route of the vn (I was there when she streamed it) and I think ubw too. i don’t know if she ever got around to heaven’s feel. that doesn’t make her opinions Objectively Right (personally i think anything higher than a 1 for every episode is excessive praise) i just…wanted to throw that out there i guess? there isn’t a rule that critics have to know nothing about fsn.

    • As a personal friend of Gabbo’s, I can verify that she’s read the visual novel. I watched her do it, months before the UBW anime even started. She’s a huge fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Fate franchise, including familiarity with the differences between the anime and the VN. She’s referenced these differences in her reviews, too.

      So her disagreement with you isn’t based on her being an “anime-only.” I would say maybe assuming that is at the root of some of these problems. You’re right that bridging these fandom gaps requires some better understanding and listening on both sides, but I don’t think you’re quite there yourself either.

  5. Meh, it’s Type-Moon fans. I’ve been in the fandom long enough to see how much of a toxic one they can be. Though that’s a common trait with old and large fandoms, especially when the thing they are being a fan of is perceived as “different”, “unique”, or “non-mainstream”. There’s just this sort of elitism about it.

    The thing with the anime and VN is that they are comparing two different works with different strong points and weak points that just so happen to share the same basic storyline. It’s not as if the VN is a great and perfect holy grail either (pun unintended), as it too is rife with problems. It’s because the anime didn’t preserve the VN’s strong points while still having weak points of its own that they forgot that the anime has its own strong points while the VN too has its own weak points. They’re different works, but just because it doesn’t preserve what the VN had good while fixing everything it had bad doesn’t mean what the anime have should just be disregarded. The worse part is that when it did just that, they still complain – the last episode was a shining example of this. It’s like “If this adaptation is in anyway imperfect and not according to our memories, then it’s bad.”

    And then there’s the worst part. When they say that “If it wasn’t for us fans, this works wouldn’t have been popular, the company would have made money. If they don’t follow our demands to the letter, then we won’t buy the DVDs/BDs and the company can just die because of that. Show appreciation for us fans, anime studio, by following our orders and you will be rewarded.” Ugh, that’s the point when I simply realize how much of a horrible person some fans could be.

    Honestly, these days I’m a bit hesitant to declare myself as a fan of something. I know there are a few series that I just can’t help but think that I am a fan of due to how animated I can be I talk about them (Touhou, and JoJo to a degree), but when possible, I try to not be associated as a fan of something. I don’t think it’s wrong to like something just because Hitler happened to like it as well, but to say that you are a part of a fandom means to be associated with everything that goes with the fanbase (which really isn’t all that different from watching anime and playing games aka being an ‘otaku’ and a ‘gamer’ admittedly). I would like to be associated with the Touhou fanbase because they are full of great and creative people who keep producing great arts with the series as its base, I can be proud of being a part of that group. With Type-Moon and Nasu? I don’t want to. I know there are great people in the fanbase, but the vocal minority/majority is just too much that it seems like the entire fanbase are bad people in the eye of others. And it’s especially hurt when the people of the fanbase you have been talking too have just been all nice people (the Dark Souls fans I’ve been talking to in the SB and SV forums has all just been nice and helpful people – they only say “Git Gud” as a tongue-in-cheek joke and even when a guy is awful at playing, they would still advise them and even volunteer to try to get themselves summoned).

    Sigh, why is it so hard to just like things you like? Ah, and sorry for the long comment. It’s… been coming for a while, and it would eventually have to come out.

    • Yeah, I’ve also found myself extremely wary of labeling myself as a dedicated “fan” of anything. There are things I like, but the tribalism that seems to inevitably follow self-conscious fandom is something I want no part of.

      • I’d like to hear your opinion on the whole “They should thank us fans” part though. I think it’s just selfish and egotistical, but I can’t say anything much beyond that.

  6. Excellent essay as always, unfortunately this is one of those issues that will always exist because it relates directly to opinions. The internet has also made this problem worse because it is so easy to just get caught in an echo chamber which people then take to mean that everyone like them is right and others are wrong. I’ll just stick to my guns of judging things based solely on what they present, who cares if it is an adaptation, if it’s good that’s great i’ll praise it for what it does right if it’s not then i’ll criticize its flaws.

  7. Nice choice of images, and Jesus Christ I wish you and your ask.fm luck.

    The idea that somebody can come along and watch (even enjoy, by god) a beloved series “wrong” is pretty baffling to me. It’d be nice if instead of lecturing or attacking you for being “wrong”, people took the time to try and learn and understand where you’re coming from in the way you viewed this piece of media. They might walk away having actually gained something from it.

    • That would be nice! I find that people’s recommendations often tell me compelling things about them as people, what they value and respond to. And that’s all really interesting stuff!

      And thanks. I’ll be more aggressive with the ask.fm bans if I have to be, I’ve run into enough waves of Fate fanaticism for a lifetime…

  8. Loved reading this article! Even as a person who has no Fate experience I understand because these trials cross over into everything and everyone who has an opinion.

    So here is a “challenge” for you all. Knowing I have no Fate experience and simply want to watch the anime (casual) what would be the “fairest” viewing order. I’ve read about many suggestions, but want another opinion. Maybe some of you well versed in the series has a case for my specific situation. Or maybe this is an exercise in futility. In seeing so much division and strife, I’m so nonchalant about this series that I couldn’t care less about watching it if it’s so much work. So convince me!

    • I started with Fate/zero anime. My favorite Type Moon product. The story is a whole lot better written that Fate/SN. It’s actually not that hard to understand the ideas of the show, and unlike the crazy fan, I have no need to grasp all the complicated rule and lore that doesn’t really impact the story that much. If there’s something you don’t understand, google it. It’s good be nice if you know about story of king arthur, alexander and other mythological characters(use wikipedia).

      UBW series that’s currently airing is also easy to jump into, especially when they spend two 50 min ep explaining everything. It’s very shonen-y, and most characters are one dimensional since they’re supposed to be explored in other routes. The core story is nothing special, but solid enough.

      The visual novel has terrible prose and way too long. Not suitable for most anime watcher, or anyone that read actual literature. Only read if you’re really into Fate stuff.

      I haven’t watched the whole old deen fate stay night, but the direction is pretty bad. Story is not as bad as the fan make it out to be, but average at best.

  9. I’d argue that you’re not watching shows wrong, you’re arguing about the wrong shows. What does it matter? UBW is still just a mostly-boring adaptation of a poorly-written VN. It’s just not worth arguing about. If even the fans feel they must warn people to experience it a certain way to appreciate it, then it’s clearly not worth all the hubbub. And I say this being a fan myself, just one who has grown up enough to know how lame it really is. Teenagers will find it cool regardless of all of this bickering, because they’re drawn to junk like this… it doesn’t really need (or deserve) all of this attention.

  10. I, for one, watch Fate Zero, and working my way through the UBW 2014, that’s my only experience with Fate. So far Zero hasn’t ruined it yet for me, so my unqualified opinion is like this.

    If what Zero ruins is absoluetly terrible, than UBW 2014 should be first, like the order you usually watch prequels. (You don’t watch Monsters University first) But if it doesn’t, than Zero should definitely come first. Without a doubt.

  11. I’ve found Type Moon fans particularly intense and as a result commenting less and less on any comments section or discussion thread pertaining the Fate series. They form almost like a “fan police” rapidly overwhelming any dissenting views on their beloved franchise and burying them in a pile of ridicule. To hear some of them talk in exalted terms about the original visual novel, you would have thought it was the 21st century equivalent of “Don Quixote” or “The Magic Mountain”

    • Yep. The aggression of some fans can drown out or just create a chilling effect on any other discussion of a certain work/topic. It’s unfortunate.

  12. You focus this essay a lot on the fact that people want to expand their own experience of a work/franchise, and that’s what ultimately it boils down to since after all we know nothing but our own experience. But I think there is a form of “reference” in this in the fact that most of the times the “right” way to watch a show is considered the one that feels closest to the experience the author intended for the audience. Those who enjoyed the original material make themselves paladins of a vision, the author’s one, and disdain soiling that vision. That’s certainly the case of Fate – watching F/Z first means getting spoilers that’ll lay waste to the plot twists planned by Nasu in F S/N, pretty much like watching the Star Wars prequels will give away that Vader is really Luke’s father without much fanfare. I know the author’s word is not the be-all-end-all of media, but it makes sense to use their intent as a reference guide. If a chef suggests you drink a red wine on your roast, you’re free to drink coke instead, but it’s reasonable to assume that the chef’s advice was most sound (at the very least in terms of how the majority of people’s tastes work).
    Said this, of course, the Fate franchise is such a complicated mess I just watched Fate Zero first anyway and am now watching UBW because I couldn’t possibly bring myself to read that goddamn VN. Also I was already spoiled on many plot points so yeah. I WOULD have probably enjoyed F/Z more had I already known the Heaven’s Feel route first, I just didn’t think that small margin of enjoyment was worth the cumbersome commitment of reading the whole thing.

    • Yeah, the discussion of how much we understand/trust/care about the author’s perspective is definitely its own whole discussion. I’d caution against taking the author’s word as the final one, which I’m sure you weren’t saying, but which I’ve actually seen as the cornerstone of various arguments about Fate online. But works are more complex than their author’s strict intentions, and obviously succeed or fail in their own ways, so ultimately I don’t tend to find “but the author said this” that much more compelling than the non-author-sanctioned argument.

      • But it doing that, aren’t you just picking and choosing which things you think are inherent to experiencing a work and which are the author’s “opinion”? Ultimately you are following the author’s opinion, as they are the one who decided, let’s say, to label the first book “1” and the second book “2”. If the case were the same for fate, and the routes were published separately as “Fate/Stay Night Parts 1, 2 and 3”, wouldn’t you naturally and logically read them in that order? Would you really consider someone who, let’s say, started with episode 7 of a 12 episode series to not have done it “wrong”? Or read the fourth Harry Potter book first, or started with the End of Evangelion? Further if an adaptation titled “Fate/Stay Night: Part 2” began airing, would you not hesitate to watch it before first watching an adaptation of “Part 1”, or in place of that reading the original “Part 1”? In that case, wouldn’t you trust the author’s intentions without thinking about it? Aren’t you trusting the author’s intentions by reading the words on the page in the order they fall? Is the difference in these cases where there is debate only that it is a retroactive intention, and the author did not make it sufficiently clear before releasing the work? There’s a point there, but it seems flimsy to me. Note that I don’t know much about the specific situation when it comes to the fate series or the author of it, I was just using it as an example.

        • You raise an interesting point. Nothing forbids me to read a book in random chapter order, or even in random page order. Of course that’ll make for a surreal reading experience, but if you pick a BAD book – say, 50 Shades of Grey – it may actually be a more compelling one than the “right” one :D.

        • At least from a financial standpoint, most western films and TVs try to make as many points of access to new viewers as possible, and many reviewers include that accessibility as a part of their evaluations. For example, can someone who has never watched Firefly watch Serenity? Do each of the Lord of the Rings movies stand on their own, and should they have to? Can you watch Iron Man 2 without watching Iron Man? And adaptations are generally considered less good if you have to read the books/comics to “get” them. Hell, television episodes often have little narrative-integrated resets and recaps built into the beginning of each act!

          Anime stands out as a method of cross-platform franchising that demands consumption of multiple media source materials. TV and film have only just started to embrace truly serial storytelling (a la Game of Thrones, Netflix “release all of the season at once for binge-watching” series, and while franchise films still tend to re-establish the story for each installment of a sequel, that doesn’t apply to Part 1/Part 2 releases.)

      • I also find this whole ‘Death of the Author’ stuff intriguing, and related to your post I wonder if there is a ‘correct’ way to watch anime/consume media, not so much in the viewing order sense but whether or not there’s a correct interpretation or not.

        Let’s take Oregairu for a recent example. As you know, this anime is a pretty special that while it has quite a huge following of fans, these fans are divided into different subsets that like Oregairu for completely different reasons to each other. There are people like you for example, and then there’s those who are all ‘Martyr Batman’ or even those who just watch it for Saika and genuinely ship him with Hachiman.

        I think your interpretation is closer to what the author wants to convey, and this would probably left the others disappointed as they’ll get less of what they’re watching it for – but does this mean that their interpretation and enjoyment less valid than yours?

        Okay, that example may be a bit obvious and extreme, but you’re often see people interpreting and enjoying/disliking a series for very different reasons. The problem is the whole ‘pick a side, we’re at war’ when it comes to debate it sparks; most fandom prefer to get their own echo chamber instead of trying to understand each other different viewpoints. And I completely understand why; it’s natural for people to prefer hanging out with people they agree with, and I especially are really bad in dealing with these kind of debates and prefer just dropping it off entirely. This is fine as it avoids flame wars or worse, but I can’t deny there might be bits of bitterness left without any progress in understanding each other, which is a bit disappointing.

        Sorry, I’m completely rambling at the end there, and might even be talking too personally any way. I hope my intention got carried over somehow – this is why I wish I could write/communicate better.

      • I don’t think the author’s word is more than a guideline, but I’d say that if we’re talking plot-driven works (i.e. ones where most of the enjoyment comes from unveiling plot points, twists and so on) then it’s much more relevant to the experience than in other cases. Starting to watch Game of Thrones from season 2 will almost completely render season 1 devoid of entertainment value for you. Again, you’re free to enjoy it as you want, just like you’re free to put ketchup and strawberry jam on top of your grilled salmon. But the author has knowledge that allows him to advice you to what is most likely the best way to enjoy it, and you can’t by definition be privy to that knowledge because ACQUIRING that knowledge is the very point of the enjoyment derived from the work. A certain amount of trust in the author’s vision is implicitly required and in fact beneficial.

        With UBW imho the biggest problem is also that there are TWO authorial intents clashing. Nasu’s, which puts Fate S/N before F/Z and in a precise route order (so that, lacking three different anime covering all routes, you’re left with the VN as the only choice), and Ufotable’s, which clearly set up UBW as a sequel to F/Z. As an anime viewer, you obviously caught onto the hints to the latter interpretation, thus made it your own. The problem is also this only focuses on the plot elements; but the complexity of the issue here is ramped up by the fact that we’re talking about a franchise involving multiple writers and media, hence causing large discrepancies in the enjoyability of its various parts for different people. What’s worse, a franchise that never even worried about being newbie-friendly, unlike for example the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been trying to (and imho failing a bit with Age of Ultron).

        • you can’t by definition be privy to that knowledge because ACQUIRING that knowledge is the very point of the enjoyment derived from the work

          This is only one form of storytelling. There’s a reason MAL ratings include a “rewatchability” factor. There are other modes of storytelling where watching things with hindsight increase the enjoyment factor. As I said below, I’m in that camp, where I feel that truly good media cannot be Spoiled, and prefer stories with a high rewatchability factor. This includes the ability to jump in at a later startpoint, and then be able to go back with that existing knowledge, and and watch the backlog with just as much fun. Why else would do channels market giant sweeps week episodes and finales, if the only people who “should” be watching are those who started from the beginning? Because their intent is for people to be ensnared by the latest big plot twist, and then go back and catch up!

          • That is why I specified in the beginning I was talking about “plot driven” works. Meaning by plot driven the kind of stories whose value lies primarily in shocking twists, mysteries to be revealed, and so on. I don’t think this is by itself either a good or a bad thing; I see it more as a genre. I don’t go watch superhero movies for the sake of knowing how they’ll end, I kinda know that, I go for the visual show and the funny/awesome bits. Knowing the ending of A Clockwork Orange won’t ruin it for me, the movie is a stylistic masterpiece in its own right. But that isn’t the same for every story, some of them DO have a high first-watch value and well, that’s fine, and those are the ones my reasoning applies to. By the way I don’t even think this is necessarily the case with Ufotable’s adaptations, whose best moments are highly rewatchable (spectacular combat scenes, or good bits of dialogue and character interaction like F/Z’s Kings’ Symposium). But it’s clearly the way the Fate franchise was intended by Nasu. In the end, it all really boils down to how much esteem people has of the author and hence trust in his work. What happens with Fate is, quite simply, that while we might find it enjoyable (I say we because I think I and Bobduh are on very similar positions about it), we hardly care enough to follow Nasu’s intended order, and that’s mostly because we see limits in his writing abilities and don’t really think it would make that much of a difference to our enjoyment if we did.

  13. My in on Fate was fanfiction first, then TvTropes/Wikipedia, then a truncated attempt at the 2006 adaptation, more fanfiction, and then Prisma Illya. I find that Fate fanfic is my favorite form of enjoying Type Moon media. :3
    Then again, I’m of the camp that good media cannot be spoiled, that my experience of watching tentpole longform franchise media has generally been “the more I know about it going in, the better the experience,” and I love the Type-Moon systematic world-building in fanfiction while I can’t stand it in canon media, so my perspective is a wee bit skewed.

    I’m reminded of my experiences with rewatching the Jackson LotR films, coming to appreciate more and more what they did as adaptations as I’ve gained more knowledge about the media-creation and storytelling processes. Similarly, as Ana Mardoll’s Narnia deconstructions have been pointing out, Lewis’s books have priorities that many readers now find terrible for their storytelling priorities, and the Disney movies attempted to address many of those differences, to varying levels of success. Lots of the participants of that deconstruction now find that they enjoy the movies much more than the books, because of that. Meanwhile, I have a relative in the diehard “books are the best, LotR and Narnia movies suck because of changes” camp, and, well, let’s just say that conversations with them tend to dead-end rather quickly.

    At that point, the arguments over the best way to receive a certain franchise of media appears to be rooted in judging others’ based on their storytelling priorities. Everyone must weigh and value the same balance of plot/character/themes/aesthetics the SAME WAY. People who only like animation and dislike VNs are wrongs. People who don’t mind spoilers are wrong. People who only care about shipping are wrong.

    One approach they’re taking with regards to the spoilers baffles me, though. “You shouldn’t watch the anime first, they’ll spoil the other routes and stuff” doesn’t conflict with “You should read the VN first and so that the adaptations theoretically don’t have anything new to offer”? Why bother watching the adaptations at all then, except for the changes, especially those necessitated by the medium?

  14. In anime everybody can be on the same page / split / or differ a lot about a show !

    First I agree going to your editor is really a stretch unless you write something offensive ! Especially In which order to watch a series / it’s a suggestion that’s it!

    Second because you write for a bigger website people feel they dont have a voice ! So they need to vent.With power comes responbiltly ! But nothing here suggests any wrong!

    Third Please dont feel alone the forums are way more vicious sometimes ! It’s to a point I dont reply to to nasty comments! Have a dialouge not hated words! You get called names when you dont know the person! It comes with the territory!

    Fourth you have some in a Fan Base you probally could call OCD or mental! These people go overboard ! Comment yes but in a polite way! You a crime has been committed ! Its media to enjoy or not like! Be thankful you get to watch IMO

    Fifth now I like Fate but the The Spring 2015 season of Unlimited Blade works in over done drawn out dialouges. I still watch but not with the same level of enjoyment!

  15. I completely agree. If you’re going anime-only and never plan on reading the visual novel, the best way to go about it is Fate/Zero -> UBW -> HF. Fate/Zero covers a lot of context & backtstory that you would otherwise learn in the Fate route of the visual novel but since Fate will not be receiving an adaptation, Fate/Zero is a second-best.

    However, if you do plan on reading the visual novel, the hands-down best way to experience it is to read the visual novel (starting with Fate route) before being exposed to any other piece of Fate/Whatever material.

  16. For a group of people that all seemingly want to advertise the thing they love, anime fans are probably the single most toxic, exclusionary group of people i’ve ever dealt with. But that’s probably because i don’t play MOBAs.

    • Eh, I think ‘secondaries are trash’ mentality really aren’t exclusive to anime fans. These type of fans have little to be proud of beyond being the first one to consume a media, and thus they look down on new people who now come for the remake/more popular adaptation of the original thing. These people really aren’t worth your attention.

      And then there are purists, who enjoyed the original source in their way and demands that an adaptation must also replicate the exact same way they enjoy it originally, and thus anything different is bad. I admit I too was like this when I was younger – I remember watching Harry Potter with a friend who hasn’t read the book, and I kept on going on with how the movie add new scenes and changes things from the book (wow, I was a really obnoxious teen). These people can also be loud, but their bile is typically directed more to the studio than the new fans.

      Ultimately, I think most fans just want new people to enjoy the things that they enjoy. However, since the mediums are different and people are even more different, sometimes this new people don’t see what is it that makes it so enjoyable. That’s why the whole “watch order” or “read the original source” comes from, in an attempt to convince the new viewers to give it another shot, so that they may hopefully come to enjoy it if they watch it the same way the original fans do. This may indeed be valid, but often they don’t really care about the proper viewing order if new fans already enjoy it in the first place.

      And this is a problem common with any adaptation, but it’s worse in this case because some of Type-Moon fans are very obsessed and also very vocal about it, which ruins things for other people. Also, the whole chronology is a mess to begin with, I’m sure even original TM-fans can’t fully agree which is the best way anyway.

  17. Hey Bobduh, hope you didnt mind me posting this over on /r/anime.

    Oh boy…its been interesting as someone not invested in the show that much to see the two sides battle it out in the comments.Your first screenshot you used is exactly my face whenever I go and try to wade in to the comments of that thread…

    Keep up the good work!

  18. Great essay, full of stuff that really needed to be said. Also, perfect image deployment!

    ScarfDyedRed’s comment above touched on a lot of what I wanted to say as another (hopefully) reasonable Type-Moon fan, but there’re a couple of extra points I’d like to expand on. Here’s a quick rundown of where I’m coming from: I started with the Fate/Zero anime and found it a good intro to the series, moved onto the VN, and then expanded out into the Nasuverse from there. Zero is definitely the more tightly- and smartly-written piece of media, but I have a personal preference towards Stay Night; part of this comes down to the fact I’ve struggled with Urobuchi’s writing and character work across multiple of his series (which isn’t to say Nasu is better; in fact, I have more trouble with Urobuchi because I expect more of him), and frankly the things I like about Stay Night are buried under a whole ton of fatal flaws like garbage pacing, treacly dialogue, sexism, and so on. Either way, I think people are good to start with either anime series – of course you’ll get different things out of Zero or Stay Night depending on which you watch first, but that strikes me as rather the point.

    Unfortunately I’ve committed a grave, grave sin in the eyes of most Type-Moonies: I played through the Tsukihime VN, experiencing the story in its “truest” and “purest” form, and didn’t like it. At all.

    Naturally, this is an incredibly unpopular opinion to voice in the fandom, especially when my reaction to Tsukihime was as visceral as it was (and thus almost impossible to justify to others in a “rational” manner). I frequently struggle to balance my identity as a woman with being a fan of visual novels – a medium which is rife with sexism and frequently hostile or outright condescending to my gender – but Tsukihime? Never before had I actually felt like a game was actually going out of its way to make me, as a female player, uncomfortable. The h-scenes in that game were sexist and had dubious enough consent that they made me feel physically sick to my stomach, and I’m not usually the type to get triggered easily. (The VN isn’t free of other issues, either: its writing is even worse than FSN’s, its characters felt flat and unbelievable, and it just wasn’t that interesting. No doubt these opinions would get me lynched in most groups of TM fans).

    But like… how am I meant to convey my experience with that to others? How am I meant to say “hi guys, this VN you love made me physically uncomfortable, but it was such a gut reaction that it’s difficult for me to explain why”? My experience isn’t any less valid than that of someone who adored Tsukihime, but fandom is something of an echo chamber: it winds up inherently stifling opinion that doesn’t fit with “consensus” to create the One True Experience, and thus usually winds up perpetuating a “middle ground” which isn’t very moderate at all. Dropping my unpopular and “irrational” opinion about Tsukihime into a group of TM fans would be like entering a shark tank with a gaping wound, and thus I’d be veeeeery wary of actually doing so. Surely we should be glad to have people with such a multiplicity of experiences with the same series or body of work?

    Unfortunately, a lot of fans and fandom would really rather have a coherent narrative than have people honestly air dissenting opinions; this is largely because, as you said in another essay a while back, fans have a tendency to view criticism of their favourite media as criticism of themselves. This goes doubly so whenever you invoke the spectre of sexism or racism or homophobia or whatever else; it’s easy to feel like “I found Tsukihime unbearably misogynistic” translates to “you are unbearably misogynistic for liking Tsukihime”, even when that comment isn’t intended as such. I really do want to believe in fandom as a space for mutual appreciation of a work you love, but in practice it’s frequently just a marginalising and self-cannibalising force, and I just think that’s really sad.

    Sorry for how rambly this was, I just wanted to get it out there.

    • Interestingly, your comment on the Tsukihime message boards reminds me of a few lines from Yurikuma Arashi: “those who cannot read social cues are evil” “evil must be excluded” “let’s search evil!”

  19. Man, I feel kind of bad for you Bobduh because I know you’re not really one to like that sort of argument because it’s a fruitless one that offers nothing at the end of the day.

    In this case, there really is no winning situation. The “correct order”, the one intended by the authors by release date, that most people could agree with, is one that involves a VN, which is outside the realm of anime. So when you are faced with the task of stating which is the correct viewing order, it’s just going to be a shitstorm of “you watched it in the wrong order”. Honestly, the fact that UBW has so many throwbacks to Fate/Zero as an adaptation gives me the impression that the studio knows what its doing, although just a tiny bit unfaithful to the original which I really don’t think matters.

  20. I can agree that yeah, as VN /Type-Moon fans can be overbearing and yeah it might be because we had a different experience. But at the same time, I feel like you shouldn’t be so dismissive of one’s opinions about why they believe there is a “correct” order either. There are some things, when people experienced all three routes, that are better shown through a given order and sometimes it creates some very interesting experiences.

    That being said, I do think that criticizing someone who doesn’t watch the “right” way isn’t cool either. I personally think one should at least say their piece without being so agressive/demeaning. I personally do this by explaining “Hey, so you like the anime , that’s great! Now, I think you ought to give the VN a shot, there’s alot of little cool things and some interesting stuff the anime doesn’t show, like those bad endings! Now, I won’t force you, but at least give it a shot? Besides there’s that pesky fate route too!”.

    But I digress, there is no real way to stop this kind of thing happening.

  21. On a historical note, ask your grandfather which was better, the soundtrack from the stage play, or the soundtrack from the movie adaptation.

  22. “What the world needs now… Is… love, sweet love…”
    But yeah, I’ve been working on a project on the “topics” of elitism and fandoms, only to find myself running into walls far too often. It’s pretty tough putting it all into words, but I have used your Ask.fm and other people’s as well to help try to put it all into words. This article is pretty helpful, too. And I do think that elitism is the wrong word to use, in retrospect, but… yeah. These comments are really interesting, and it seems you hit the nail on the head pretty well.
    I do think people need to just try to calm down and understand each other, but at the same time I know that on at least five separate occasions I’ve fangasmed about Gundam Build Fighters, Blood Blockade Battlefront, and Log Horizon to the point where I’m pretty sure it’s almost a bother. Flawfinder and E Minor, as well, irritate me on a lot of occasions- but I know that they have the right to their own opinions, and that they have some valid points concerning anime and Japanese media in general. I actually use Google Plus a lot, and the fans there are mostly pretty peaceful and willing to discuss in depth on any sort of subject if you just ask about it- I can’t speak for everyone though.
    Also the Fairy Tail fandom is pretty peaceful, so I’m not ashamed to be a part of it, but like everything else I’m saying it’s just my own perspective and opinion from the places and things I’ve seen- which I think is the big problem with all these arguments and debates across all sorts of fandoms, genres, even sometimes with countries and real-life troubles. People each have their own opinions on everything in life- the way they view something, the time they saw something happen, the places they life and visit, and the people they talk to- that’s what makes people unique, and everything they experience is a part of that- who they are. There’s no real correct opinion on anything, except for possibly the creator, but even that’s debatable. People need to find a way to take their individual experiences, the opinions they’ve come to on their own or gained from others, and merge them with those of other people, even if it means admitting you might be wrong somewhere or having to let someone ramble on about what you think is wrong for hours on end. That’s what an ideal world should have, but that’s my naieve influenced idealism speaking.
    This is getting a little long (at least by my standards, but that’s the whole perspective and opinions deal again XD), so I’m just going to cut it off here and hope that this thoughtbarfing makes some sense to you.

  23. As someone who’s been deep in the FMA fandom “which anime is better” wars, I do sort of get the fan frustration with someone supposedly “watching something wrong.” Which order you watch a series in can impact how you experience them if they were designed by the creators with a particular viewing order in mind (which is definitely true of FMA, as Brotherhood skims through the events the first anime already covered, assuming most people had seen it already). Everyone knows which version of FMA I prefer (so I won’t repeat that here, for fear of lighting up that tired debate) and since I think it’s a far more important and artistic work than the other, it makes me a little sad when people are underwhelmed by it cite their viewing order as the probable reason why.

    But it’s still something you’re never really going to get far by debating on the Internet. These judgments are always going to be extremely subjective and reflective of people’s personal experiences with media, which are wildly individual. And as this shows, it slips so easily into “true-fan” gatekeeping territory that does nothing but scare new potential fans off.

    What particularly puzzles me with this reaction to your Fate review is that it was a fairly positive one. Clearly watching Zero first didn’t hurt your impression of the “definitive work” at all. I can understand getting clingy to an “order” if you’re worried someone might actually not like or understand your preferred version, but doing that even when that’s not the case? It’s like Type Moonies draw lines in the sand just for the sake of drawing lines in the sand.

  24. Hmm.

    I find myself with sort of mixed feelings on this. Of course, while it is true that every person has their own distinct relationship with a piece of media, the simple fact of the matter is that certain opinions and responses to that media ARE more valid than others.

    For example, while I permit it may be possible for someone to approach Hamlet as a (modern-styled) comedy and lambast it for having poor taste in humor, bad timing and unrelatable characters, I would not grant that individual’s opinion the same amount of legitimacy as I would with one who actually interfaced with the work in a more meaningful way.

    Indeed, I would even propose that the idea of “correct” reading is, in fact, the entire basis for literary criticism. After all, if all opinions should be equally respected, what’s the impetus to learn how to look more deeply into works? I recall Film Critic Hulk wrote a piece on the different ways people examine and interact with media to that effect, wherein he reiterated that while no individual’s experience with a media form can be called ‘invalid”, certain opinions and thoughts can be considered more critically important.

    This is, of course, rather far removed from the idea of experiencing media in the correct order that you discuss, but ultimately I hope you see where I’m coming from. It’s perfectly fair for one to say that an individual’s opinion is based on a shallow understanding of the material, or ignores core conceits and themes of the work, and is thus not a very useful or “good” opinion, especially if that individual happens to be a critic (and thus has a degree of influence behind their published opinion). While I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said, opinions are not immune from criticism.

    This, of course, is not intended to excuse people going beyond the bounds of civility, but I don’t think it should be beyond the pale for people to critique a critique, and be annoyed if told they aren’t allowed to demonstrate opinions of opinions.

    (Incidentally, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a massive fan of both F/SN and Nasu as a writer, but personally don’t interact much if at all with the fan community. I’m also not particularly familiar with the kerfuffle that resulted in this address, so please take any perceived condemnation you might read into my response with a grain of salt. My perspective is limited mostly to this piece.)

  25. Ok, I’ll bite.

    You talk up how much more complex the Fate/zero adaptation was writing-wise in your ANN review, which I find offense with, because, again, you’re comparing two completely different things.

    Fate/zero, from the outset, was written as a complete piece, with all of the multifaceted character narratives and arcs presented to you.

    Fate/stay night was meant to be read in sequence – Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel one after the other.

    You complain about people who tell you to read the VN, but at its core this is because UBW on its own won’t be as strong as a story unless you see the build up from the Fate route, and the implications brought up in Heaven’s Feel once you reread it with the awareness of what happens there.

    ” Which implies there is a correct experience, and that anyone else would be capable of attaining that correct experience if they simply engaged with the media in the same way you did. ”

    That isn’t the core of it (unless you’re dealing with trolls), but something more basic – the structure and writing of F/SN is fundamentally different from Fate/zero. Fate/zero relies heavily on F/sn for a lot of its stronger moments, UBW relies on the material from Fate being established so that it doesn’t need to bring up Saber’s entire deal when she chooses to watch from the sidelines (because you know her ideals and Emiya’s run parallel), etc etc. You seem to consider it some kind of elitism to suggest that the source material should be read, but that’s just how the story was designed in the first place. Just like how Fate/zero was designed to be read from beginning to end, with an awareness of what happens in F/sn as background knowledge, the main Fate franchise is written in such a way that even Bad and Dead ends reveal a lot about characters (for example, an early Fate bad end foreshadows a lot of plot points in Heaven’s Feel).

    So yeah, for this specific instance, telling you to ‘read the VN’ is legitimate advice

  26. Don’t listen to those neckbeards. You were right. You should watch fate zero first, it’s fantastic. Ubw was terrible on the other hand. An awful sequel with a terribly annoying main character and the entire show doesn’t follow any of the rules the holy grail war set for itself in fate zero and it gave so much plot armor to emiya and saber. They were the weakest pair. They should have been eliminated first.
    At least fate zero have everyone an equal shot, ubw was just a giant loop for emiya to be awful in 2 seperate time lines and ruin the whole show.

    If anything were altered in your article I would suggest watch fate zero then don’t watch ubw at all because its irredeemable trash apart from good animation quality.

    And fuck the Harry Potter ripoff epilogue.

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