I’m a person that likes to classify things. Not so much because I feel the need to label and limit things but because I was the kid that sorted their legos by size and color. It’s just a thing I do. I also regularly reclassify things. Just because you are in one category, doesn’t mean you can’t be in another! Furthermore, when it comes to discussing abstract artistic endeavors such as movies, music or anime, these (admittedly subjective) categories are very helpful to getting your point across and quickly making sure everyone is on the same page and knows what you’re talking about.  If I say buddy cop  movie, it gives you a certain amount of information about tones, intent, potential subject matter and tropes without me having to list them all.

That’s super useful and also completely useless.

Image result for naruto sakura
awww – when I google anime and useless, Sakura immediately comes up….

I am curious about genres, I like to see what the official genres are as we can arguably assume this is what the creators intended for their work. I’m interested in how a series is perceived by the general audience and whether that corresponds to the original intent as well as my own experience, but beyond that, all I really get from knowing the genre of a series is that it may or may not contain certain tropes, may have a loose association with a number of central themes and could adhere to a specific narrative structure. That’s pretty much it and let’s face it, most series don’t really fall neatly into any specific genre to begin with.

So why do people actually get angry over genre debates? How can we really claim on is better than the other? Isn’t that like picking the “best” color?  When was the last time you got mad at someone for having a different favorite colour than you? Me it was last Wednesday. Waddya mean fuchsia you hipster wannabe?

Image result for yuki gakkou gurashi gif
just call it pink!

I bring this up because I’ve seen a lot of discussion, elitism, criticism and good old fashion mudslinging trying to parse the value of any specific genre. I’m all for it! Discussion is great, debates are interesting and if you’re grown up enough to remain respectful then by all means be passionate. Apathy is a great plague upon the world and we must fight it. But we all know that genres don’t actually mean anything right? That every genre has stellar offerings alongside very lamentable ones.

Like I mentioned above – genres generally imply certain tropes and themes that mark a show. I can see how you may be more attracted to a particular set or generally dislike some elements often present in another but discounting any genre all together seems unreasonable and likely to make you miss out on something you might have really enjoyed.

Besides, they can also be extremely misleading. Let me try to give an example using a genre I gravitate to (and a lot of people have told me they hate): Sports!! 

Related image
still one of my all time faves

I’m attracted to sports animes for a number of reasons. Much like for shonen, I’m a huge sucker for friendship above all tropes and ridiculously determined characters. I also admire the glorification of hard work and the great majority of Sports animes tend to focus on characters that are in some way less suited than most and need to train to overcome particular drawbacks. They’re almost always underdog stories. Unlike in shonen, Sports anime protagonists are often shy, quiet, small and relatively calm. I can see myself in them.

 They also have strong elements of teamwork and large unit (team) dynamics where characters must learn to cooperate with people that aren’t necessarily close. Sports animes almost always feature large ensemble casts and rivals are still given their own storylines and developments so that even the opponents can really be considered antagonists. The conflicts tend to be internal rather than classic good vs evil setups. Finally, I like the super serious treatment of low stakes events – like a high school basketball game. The scope is more manageable in my mind and I relate to it instantly.

I guess Sports!! anime also usually feature something most people identify as a sport, although the definition gets stretched prety thin at times.

OK so now that we’ve defined what the Sports! genre means to me, let me show you why it’s not that useful.

Image result for anime free
nope – not it

Cat did a fantastic post, and also read my mind, clearly explaining why Free! is not a Sports!! anime. It really doesn’t adhere to much of the standard tropes associated with the genre and follows a completely different narrative structure and tone. I agree with absolutely everything in that post. However, when people think of Free!, they think Sports anime. What’s more, when people tell me they don’t like Sports! anime, Free! is one of the most frequent examples of a series they did not enjoy… See the problem here?

On the other hand, I have always found that Sound! Euphonium fits the bill much more closely. The practice, teamwork, important competition elements are all there. You have an understated lead character who’s spurred forward by the passion of their team and a strong if aloof mentor character. You also have a very large cast and an emphasis on the importance of rivalry rather than conflict. It is somewhat more dramatic in tone than most Sports series but, so is Free! 

Image result for anime sound euphonium
let’s work those muscles

I know that the main argument you’re all going to make is that Band isn’t a sport but ‘cmon, if Go, Hyakunin Isshu karutaand Quiz Bowl can all be considered sports how is marching band not included? It’s very physical guys!

As a fan of Sports anime and a frequent watcher of the genre, I would not have been that surprised to see Sound! Euphonium characterized as such. It even has an exclamation point in the title!

So, do you see what I mean? Unless you know exactly what tropes and themes I associate with a genre, then you only have a very general idea of why I would characterize a series as such. In my reviews I have used: awesomeness, pure bliss, everything that’s right with the world, wow and mullets as genres. So far no one has ever asked for clarification. Obviously, genres are not the most iportant element of a show. 

Image result for anime weird
another one of my favorite genres

And even if you do know exactly what I mean by a particular genre it may still not be the same as the next guy.

So sure, defend your favorite genres, argue vehemently for them, fight off the non-believers and smite the infidels, just keep in mind that you are fighting for best colour.

by the very talented Achiki

47 thoughts

  1. It’s funny because one of the ways I describe Love Live! to people who aren’t privy to the franchise is that it’s very much like a Sports Anime — which goes to your point (I mean, as you say “[i]t even has an exclamation point in the title!” xD). But, yeah, really for something a lot of people look to for objectivity (mainly when picking out a show to watch), genres are fairly connotative and subjective.

    I’m curious though, Irina; what are your thoughts on Horror Anime?

    1. I’ve seen very few that are considered Horror but I’m always looking for a good one – to watch in broad daylight, under a blankie…

  2. Oh, thanks so much for linking my post and agreeing with it, plus sparking an interesting discussion like this~

    I find a lot of people take anything categorized as Y genre too much without thinking about it first to see if they agree. Especially because then there will be people trying things out without knowing the genre isn’t exactly correct. I think the way to break this would be to have genre and sub-genre. I’d classify Free! as genre: slice of life/drama and sub-genre: sports. Or maybe it’d be best for it to be primary genre and secondary genre?

    In the end, I think what’s best is really for watchers to develop so they’ll come up with their own definition of what Y or Z genre is like, in order for them to find more things they like. Instead of just relying on a genre tag, or what demographic it’s targeting.

    I hope I’m making sense because it’s night and I might not be thinking straight, or typing it well :”’D

    1. It did make sense but you just know some people are gonna go wild and have 36 genres per show…
      It was my pleasure linking to your post. I really loved it.

      1. Chokes I wouldn’t be surprised yeah, which is why it’s better for each person to discover their own guidelines for what each genre is like 😣
        That makes me so happy, it made my day 💗

  3. …but you should probably know that I’m the only person to ever call it a sports anime.

    Not true. In the 2015 Animesuki choice awards 4 people niminated Hibike Euphonium for best sports anime of the year. (See here – scroll down a bit.) It’s not the first show that comes to mind, and thus it didn’t receive enough nominations, but 4 people did consider it, and don’t remember any protests. The show that won the category that year, by the way, was Shokugeki no Soma (the cooking competition anime). So you’re certainly not alone looking at the spirit of the show.

    Also, what’s the genre you associate with Arakawa – Under the Bridge? Absudist comedy? Slice of Quirk?

    I get the fun of classifying stuff. As a child I had filing cabinet with animal cards (picture on the front, information on the back). I’d sort them according to genra, and then I’d sort them alphabetically. I once tried to sort them according to where the animel lives (there was a little map in top right corner above the picture), but I didn’t know how to deal with creatures that lived practically everywhere and decided it wasn’t important enough after I had multiple “A & B and a little of C” piles, so I quit. I did sort them for life-expectancy once (but I was too lazy to make my own riders, so I re-sorted them almost immediately).

    1. I think I had those cards too. I would receive them in packs in the mail…
      As for the Arakawa genre – also one of my most used tags: Blonde Bishie (bishoujo variety)

      1. @Arakawa: I should have known.

        @Cards: Yeah, they came by mail. Must have been the 70ies.

  4. Very interesting discussion on how Hibike! Euphonium and Free! work as narratives for sports anime. I’ve watched Free!, but now knowing Hibike is technically a sports anime, I need to watch it now 😀

    Plus, just to add to Genre debate thing, one of the things that irks me the most is people comparing two shows IN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT genres.

    1. I really enjoyed Hibike so I encourage you but you should probably know that I’m the only person to ever call it a sports anime.
      I’m not sure I have ever read shows fro different genres being compared. The again we have just established that my own grasps on genres is shaky at best so maybe I just didn’t realize. Doesn’t seem super productive though…

      1. I think the biggest one I saw is Spirited Away and Your Name by virtue of both of them being incredibly successful anime movies, and yet people feel the need to debate about their content when it’s two completely different things.

  5. I think when you have a medium where the creators find the need to both find audiences but also differentiate their works from others in the genre, you’re going to find a lot of works where the creators push the boundary of the genre, either as far as the genre will take it, or into realms occupied by other genres. As a result you end up with a lot of “Well, it’s THIS plus THIS.” Then, if that works, you find other people trying to go into the “THIS plus THIS” space.

    That creates a sort of bush kind of thing where there genres and then sub-genres and then sub-sub-genres, until the idea of genre itself starts to become nonsensical. I think that’s going on: when I talk to people and tell them what I like, they don’t mention a genre any more. They mention titles.

    It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

  6. Different genres are why I love anime. I have different moods (like most people I hope) and sometimes I don’t want to watch a thriller/death/murder anime and I will pick up a nice sports anime to help me see the whole teamwork aspect that you mentioned to make me believe there is good in the world. I don’t always want to watch something that has a deep message about the world or people and I’ll watch a cute little mummy run around and be freaking cute.
    I’ve tried more genres in anime than I do in watching live action. I don’t know what that says about me… It is just that anime can cover so many platforms that is just makes things that I wouldn’t watch more relatable and accessible. In the end the message is: Yay anime! Watch all the things!

    1. So what I’m getting is that you hate horror anime! Jk!!! You know I also am much more adventurous with my anime choices than live action. I’m not sure why. That would be an interesting topic to explore at some point…

      1. Same! I don’t think I would watch something like Tokyo G. if it was live action, but I do love a psychological thriller, but I can’t watch a bunch in a row haha!

  7. Sport anime series makes me exciting and motivating, like I am watching a real sports on TV. I also see when I recommend people to watch sports anime, they often have a bad vision of sports anime and think of Inuzuma Eleven or some of the soccer anime. (because many people like soccer in my country) But when I recommend Haikyuu!! they would not understand why this volleyball anime is great, because its about volleyball and I sometimes have a long discussion with them about how well animated it is and also has great character, but they think it’s quiet boring because of the fact that they don’t like volleyball. I think people should not have this opinion about a genre just because they saw 1 or 2 anime’s that are not even the greatest, if you know what I mean. Anyways, love your post as always!!

    1. Thank you. I understand perfectly but hey, it’s their loss! I have movies I absolutely adore that are about spelling bees. Not exactly the most compelling supeject matter but it’s all in the way the story is told.

      1. Haha well I always say that it doesn’t matter what kind of subject the movie or anime/manga is about. If the story and characters are great, then it could be just as good as an action/adventure movie or anime/manga.

  8. This reminded of the owls blog tour that you guys do, the one that promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of several things. Why not do the same for genre right…

  9. Genre is even more meaningless when it comes to games, because people haven’t really grasped the concept of distinguishing between “mechanical genre” and “narrative genre”. This is a particular issue with visual novels, which cover such a broad array of themes and styles that lumping them all together under one umbrella is pretty much useless!

    Someone who enjoyed “My Girlfriend is the President” won’t necessarily enjoy “Deus Machina Demonbane”, for example (though I loved both); likewise, someone who assumes that visual novels are just “porn” (as many people still do) might be surprised were they to play either an all-ages title, or one in which sex is treated as an important part of the narrative rather than just something to get one’s rocks off to. (Hi, Grisaia!)

    Ultimately when it comes to genre as you’re describing it here, I use it as a rough guide to determine whether or not it might fall into an extremely broad category of things I might be interested in, but in terms of actually discussing and providing commentary on something, I try to avoid pigeon-holing things where possible. Because on more than one occasion, I’ve started watching/reading/playing something thinking it was one genre, and came out feeling that no, it was actually clearly something completely different. (Hi again, Grisaia!) I love it when that happens.

    1. Grisaia has been installed on my computer for ages and I haven’t played yet. It keeps popping up in my life though – like it’s mocking me.
      In anu case I agree with you and have a feeling most of my readers are the type that don’t put much stock in random labels either but I have seen some brutal Twitter wars and almost aggressive comments on other blogs. I have also received my share of (occasionally off colour) criticism for apparently failing to properly grasp the features of one particular genre.

      1. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Those who get too hung up on labels are inevitably not interested in the interesting things about the actual finer details. Such is true for so much of life, not just anime and games!

        I had someone properly yell at me online for calling Dark Souls a “hack and slash” game once. That was fun.

  10. I really enjoyed this blog! I don’t necessarily agree with it but damn it was well written and I appreciate your point of view! I don’t like quantifying things, I don’t like genres AT ALL, I’d be happy if every anime came in unannounced with no trailers or posters or plot synopsis and people just had to sit down and watch the whole damn thing without preconceptions and bias based on the genre. But I know I’m in the minority with this opinion, so here’s probably where this opinion will stay!

    P.S. Keijo is a sports anime.

    P.P.S. It’s also the best sports anime (also I’ve watched like 3 sports anime in my life so what do I know?)

    1. I’m currently watching Scroching Ping Pong Girls and I was thinking of recommending it to you as an anime…
      My long years of studying science lead me to almost instinctively seek out patterns and cathegorize data. This said I usually don’t look up the official genre of an anime until after I’ve watched it (often after I’ve reviewed it, which is why I get the wrong A LOT)…

      1. Hmm, I’d never heard of Scorching Ping Pong Girls but my interest is piqued! Thanks for brining it to my attention! Guess it’s hard to unlearn things when you spent years in a scientific field. I’ve always been the ~artsy~ sort so suffice to say that’s why I like things a bit more loosey goosey.

Leave me a comment and make my day!