Saturday, February 2, 2008

On analysis, editorial blogging and why I bother - an analysis


If you took ten different anime fans and said the word Gonzo to them, about three-quarters of them would grumble, one or two would shrug and one would whoop uncontrollably until his arms fell off.

In a lot of ways that's something I expect because anime is an entertainment source. And part of being entertained is what the viewer brings to the show. It's the same with books. It's the same with movies. And personally, I think that's a good thing.

A while back CCY posted a paragraph from the now-defunct Like Water that's always stuck me a little sideways.

" In the end, anime is a hugely personal entertainment medium. It caters to individual fantasies, and makes you believe that you are the center of the fantasy (exemplified by harem anime). This makes it very difficult to "dialogue" on anime the way you might a good fiction novel, or the way you would a great movie. You wrap so much of yourself into the story and the characters that you feel like you have your own private world with these people, and it's something that others can't take from you. This is why anime is so addicting, and why people who enjoy it tend to watch so much of it. Who doesn't want their own special world that others can't even comprehend or touch? We can share it to the extent that we say what characters we like, or what particular moments touch us, but we can't really share the depth of feeling that draws us to anime because it's something that lies deep in us, something that we let few people touch."

Now granted, I'm taking the paragraph a little out of context here (he was talking about why anime has stagnated for him), but I think it raises an interesting question. Why do editorial bloggers even bother?

On the nature of entertainment

I'll be fair here. Anime first and foremost IS entertainment. It's meant to be a distraction from the day to day life. The characters are designed so that the viewer can insert themselves into the place of the main character and vicariously experience the show. More than any other medium other than books, it allows the viewer to break the fourth wall, enter into the story and experience it on a level that is both intensely personal and inherently individual.

And every viewer does take something to the table. Personally, I love epics. I love mysteries. I love intrigue. If any show or book or movie has all three of those then I'm there. And I bring to the table all of the fantasy I've read, all the hard-boiled detective novels and all of the movies I've watched.

Also when I sit down to watch a show, I do have a certain set of expectations. If I'm watching an action show, I expect to be on the edge of my seat. If I'm watching a comedy, I expect to laugh. And so on and so forth. So not only is it an intensely personal experience, any opinion on it comes from an unique background of likes and dislikes.

But all of that said, I think it's still a good thing to analyze.

Why I bother

Again, the question remains, why do I read and write editorial blogs? To be honest, I'm not an academic. My education in literature mostly comes from learning how to write a story. And considering that I'm not published yet, that doesn't seem to be going very well. But still, I find commentary about anime fascinating.

And that's because I disagree with this line, " This makes it very difficult to "dialogue" on anime the way you might a good fiction novel, or the way you would a great movie."
Because honestly if you got ten lit students into a room and mentioned Hemingway, you'd get three people who'd grumble, at least one person who mentioned his treatment of women, a few people who gave you a blank stare and at least one person who cheered wildly until their arms fell off. All entertainment on some level is a personal experience.

But that doesn't mean it can't be analyzed. In fact, I'd argue the point of analysis is to present an argument and try to make it as sound as possible. Maybe it'll be devisive. Maybe it'll be just plain wrong. But if it gets people to think long enough to tell you why you're wrong then it's done it's job.

And part of that analysis is taking that initial gut reaction and exploring why you had it, what type of themes or visuals appealed to you and why you had the reaction you did.

And that's why I bother reading and writing editorial blogs, so that I can see what people were thinking when they watched a particular thing and so that I can somehow verbalize that personal experience.

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