Do you guys like that title? I did in fact enjoy the Unbearable Lightness of Being (obviously I related to it on a very personal level) but I think it’s one of the most pretentious titles ever. It’s the type of title you whip out when you want to sound all smart and intimidating which usually only makes you annoying.

This post isn’t in fact about my famously dubious naming skills, rather it’s about hype. It’s about those titles that generate so much buzz, sight unseen, that it colours the entire experience. With the rise of the age of information, all that matters seems to be *going viral*. News and entertainment gets thrown at us at top speed in dizzying quantity that the only thing that matters is to make an instant impression or risk getting completely lost in the fray.

Konosuba anime aqua running
what you really want is a captive audiance

It’s no wonder that more and more, the entertainment industry is throwing their budgets into marketing and promotion rather than in the end product. As a niche industry, anime may still be a little isolated from this phenomenal but it’s hardly immune to it.

I hadn’t observed the phenomena first hand before as I have only recently becoming more aware of the larger anime fan community. Since starting this blog however, I do notice that certain shows generate a lot more interest pre-season. When those first impressions and episode 1 reviews roll in, some titles get a lot more posts than others. Certain shows have MAL ratings months before the first episode even airs.

Others fly completely under the radar and you only realized they ever existed years after they are done airing.

Obviously, any show would want to be part of the former group. Even if you happen to be the best anime series ever produced, there’s little use if no one ever sees the show. But there are some drawbacks as well, and increasingly I’m wondering whether it’s worth it.

Yuru Yuri bloodbath
this escalated quickly

I remember when Violet Evergarden came out. This was one hotly anticipated title. People were going crazy over it based on one promo picture and some concept art. I still haven’t seen the show myself (I will) but from everything I hear it’s quite wonderful, yet there was still a slight let down. The expectations were so high that it was impossible to live up to and some fans started the show carrying a certain fatigue from having heard about it so much already. And that’s the best possible case. A show with that type of anticipation needs to be all things to all fans or it will get completely chewed out.

It’s a similar story with subsequent seasons of beloved franchises. If they don’t keep upping the ante, suddenly the no longer measure up. And no show can just keep upping the ante if they started out phenomenal, that’s just irrational. (OK so somehow Natsume can do but there’s a lot of black magic and ritual sacrifices involved).

Isn’t it better to be a sleeper hit. That unexpected little show that could and suddenly takes over everything? Land of the Lustrous or Made in the Abyss seem to come out of nowhere but have earned almost unanimous praise. The mindset of audiences going into a show more or less blind and unknowing is very different and it allows for those wonderful surprises and linger in the viewers’ minds.

anime surprise
like looking in the mirror

But despite being critical darlings and admired by fans, we can’t pretend that such sleepers have anywhere near the commercial success of something like One Piece or SAO. In the end a studio needs money way more than accolades. An ok show with a tepid reputation seen by millions is simply more valuable than a masterpiece seen by thousands. Then again, if your flagship tanks hard enough it will sink your reputation and risk taking the whole studio down with it.

It’s generally agreed that this is why studios are more willing to invest in endless season of well received but ultimately average shows than second seasons of beloved series. This is why you have to carefully weight and parcel out how much exposure you want to get before airing. You need to keep expectations realistic, make sure fans will be forgiving but still drive them to see the show.

From a pure marketing standpoint, I think the best way to go is early to mid season contraversy. A few episodes already available and people have gone into your show without too many preconceived notions. Everybody’s already adjusted to and accepted the show’s limits and weaknesses. Now you want to get some word of mouth to attract as many viewers in (with realistic biases) as possible before the midway mark. Most of us won’t drop a 12 episode series if we’ve already seen 7.

sleepy
wait…24 episodes!!??!?

Of course cramming in some type of hot take into the narrative just to get a reaction out of viewers doesn’t necessarily make for the most compelling story. (I consider it a type of fanservice). Actually now that I think about it, fanservice does serve the same purpose but the market is already so saturated with it that it hardly registers anymore.

Megalo Box may have done it right as a spiritual successor to a show that no longer has many die hard fans. The oddity and nostalgia gives you some decent hype but there are no concrete expectations associated to any of it. Of course in this particular example, the show had some rather fantastic production values to fall back on. I’m not sure the same formula can be blindly applied across the board.

So what do you guys think. Is Hype more of a Blessing than a curse? Is there a too much of a good thing moment?  commie-hyperdimension-neptunia-the-animation-06-4d082d13-mkv_snapshot_15-51_2013-08-17_12-52-54

44 thoughts on “The Unbearable Heft of Hype”

  1. What bugs me is when people do a review of an anime they have only seen one ep. of and act like that is representative of the entire season which hasn’t even been released yet. Or worse, doing their review just based on previews.

  2. Maybe I am alone in this but I never notice hype about most new anime shows – partly because I don’t frequent many anime news sites or forums, nor do I read manga – so I come to a new title with no expectations. AOT for example came out of nowhere for me because I knew nothing about it, and frankly, I like it that way.

    Now, once a show starts airing I see the comments on Twitter, FB and other media which is when I notice “the hype” about them. which piques my curiosity if the title eventually gets a commercial UK release and i get to review it! 😉

    I actually notice hype more about films than anything and since the current Hollywood practice is to release trailers a year before the film is due to hit cinemas then I get tired of the hype, but it is mostly through fan discussion than the film’s over enthusiastic PR!

    So, I guess ultimately WE’RE to blame! 😛

      1. I think it’s because I tend to follow quite a few UK accounts that share the same titles for review that I do that I avoid new show hype. Whereas I notice trends in titles from the many other bloggers that do single episode reviews, which isn’t something I couldn’t do – it’s bad enough trying to say something fresh about Naruto collections after 33 instalments, let alone doing 400+ episodes individually! 😮

  3. Actually, don’t overrate the studios, when it comes to hype. Very often, the studios are contractors, and who’s responsible for the hype differs per show. For shows like Violet Evergarden, it’s indeed partly the studio, because KyoAni owns the property (i.e. the novel is published on one of their own imprints), so it’s basically an in-house product. Usually, they don’t invest much outside of Japan, where it’s usually the distributors who engage in hype (Crunchyroll is especially engaged, here; but some of the physical media companies do so, too – I’m thinking of NISA who apart from their games sell some anime, too). Sometimes, the studios do participate in the foreign hype (I remember PA Works making a twitter account in English for the Eccentric Family come second season, for example).

    Word of mouth is the most important hype machine in the anime community, though, and Crunchyroll is good at tapping that, since they themselves actually spring from the community (going from illegal fansubs to licensed content provider, IIRC – I might not). Big companies like Netflix, though, are totally divorced from word of mouth (and them keeping their shows in what I call “Netflix detention” – releasing it at a later point, all at once – pretty much makes sure that the simulcast scene will never really talk about the show. When you consider the big picture, though, the simulcast community and anime fandom are niche markets, and Netflix etc. aren’t really interested in them. They’re probably (that’s just my guess) interested in selling anime to their own customer base, and if they overlap with the anime fandom that’s a bonus. I don’t really know what the mainstream sales numbers are for anime titles on Amazon and Netflix, when you compare them to streaming sites like Crunchy or Funimation. I know little about who runs Hidive, but at least they seem to copy the simulcast model. (amazon mostly, too. Netflix is the big outlier.)

    In-/Outgroup relations between anime fandom and people at large is interesting and confusing. The animefandom seems to be a tad biased towards latenight anime, while everyone else seems to be more familiar with long-running daytime shows. I think (never talked to them) that Crunchy uses daytime shows to draw in new fans, which might explain why they’re nearly the only ones I ever hear talking about Black Clover (not as bad as everyone in the anime community would have you believe, but also not something I’d single out for hype).

    I just go through anichart and try everything that looks remotely interesting. Most shows I miss are shows I dropped too early, but sometimes they’re shows I dismissed. I’m not that susceptible to people saying good things about a show, but I am susceptible to people saying surprising things about the show, because that usually means I misjudged it and it deserves a second look. (Sometimes, people saying good things about a show can make a difference – especially if there’s a conflict between appealing and annoying elements, and I dropped it because I gave more weight to the annoying elements.)

    I often end up liking shows that other people drop one by one. This season, for example, I’m quite fond of Kakuryo Yadomeshi, which most people seem to have dropped last season (it’s a two-cour). It’s nothing special, and no-one who dropped it misses a masterpiece, but it’s something that grew on me. It’s not so much a sleeper as an orphan.

    Most shows I thought would be good are entertaining but fell slightly below my expectations, and the only show that came out of nowhere and ended up really good is Planet With (though I wonder if they can pull off the landing with only one cour, since they’re still expanding at episode 6). Jasshin chan Dropkick is pretty much the only show this season that fulfilled my hopes rather than my fears (it was a show I’d either hate or be fond of; it’s the latter – think a more gory version of Gabriel Dropout).

    I like discovering stuff, so pre-season hype often lessens that aspect – I get used to the name and might lose a little motivation to check it out, by the time it arrives (but not enough to stop me; I don’t think that ever happened). Exceptions are proven favourites (example this season: Steins;Gate 0), or shows that I really want to see (example from this season would be Hi Score Girl, which I’ve been wanting to see for nostalgia reasons ever since the show got cancelled over manga copyright problems with SNK Playmore – it’s an arcade game nostalgia show that plays in the 90ies).

    1. I saw the first episode of Kakuryo Yadomeshi
      and put it aside for binging.
      I see what you mean about the joy of discovering a show.

  4. Timely commentary. I’m sure you remember my little dual review of Island and Summer Camp Island, both of which were heavily hyped before their premieres. Summer Camp Island burst far beyond what its hype could even suggest, while–in my mind–Island never came close to living up to its hype, gradually just giving up. And let’s not forget that wunderkind of anime popularity, sneaking in with virtually no hype whatsoever, Kemono Friends! Honestly, I’d happily trade any and all hype for a simple, thoughtful preview of an upcoming series–like that’s ever gonna happen!

  5. Ah… I’d argue that hype is a good thing for a show, but not explicitly for the audience.
    In response to hype, people get radicalized. More people will become diehard fans (SAO), and more people will become convinced that anime is a mistake (also SAO). For me, it just makes me critical… which is a good thing! I loved watching Re:Zero episodically along with the hype, and realized that Violet Evergarden was exactly the type of lukewarm story that I could never love.
    Shows with hype generally get more views and more sales, so they are often the ones with the best chance of getting a sequel or continuation. I think that complaints against hype happen just because someone had their expectations raised for a show that was mediocre at best. Because they lack confidence in both the medium and their ability to distinguish other quality shows, some people like to go against hype…
    Generally a good show will shine through despite hype- but because sales matter, a good show still needs some hype if it is a long-form narrative. And by long-form, I mean more than 1-core. :/

  6. Well..hype can certainly destroy things at some point. As one who can definitely be influenced by hype, I have had many occassions where the hype eventually was so high that no matter how good something was it could never ever live up to it. At the same time, I also become very skeptical of hype. Exacly because of the reason I have just named. It’s fun to get excited about something. For instance because of a cool trailer, or positive reviews. But when hype becomes too much, it might just in the end lessen your experience.
    So…I think I like sleeper hits more. A show for instance this season that is flying very low under the radar but is a lot of fun is Phantom in the Twilight. You hardly see anyone talking about it, but it’s really a great watch. In the end though, I think it all comes down to what you personally like. A hyped show might not be just be for you😊

  7. I definitely think that no hype is better then all the hype, but then you are talking to some one who avoids trailers and PVs as much as possible.

      1. Oh, I usually use a site like this. http://anichart.net/Summer-2018 I read the premises of stories not knowing what their source material is and hope they turn out ok.

        Though I guess I lied sort of because I do watch what other people consider popular and interesting sometimes. Really depends.

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever (at least not consciously) let hype effect my opinion of the show. Often the opposite is true for me, if a show is getting low scores and mercilessly ‘dunked’ on by everyone with people saying “this is derivative, just like x or y or z” or “if this doesn’t improve I’m dropping it” or “this just sucks” I found myself ~more~ drawn to it and more willing to defend it. But then again, I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, the downtrodden for “cripples, bastards and broken things” as it were.

      1. I mean maybe it affects what I don’t watch? Like if something is hyped to high heaven I’m more likely to ignore it. Does that count? Plus I guess it depends what you mean by hype, I get personally hyped for things due to my own preferences like I was hyped for Harukana Receive because bikinis but other people’s hype rarely plays a factor unless it’s a specific person whose opinion I respect hyping something in a review. Only then would I say it might affect my viewing choices.

  9. While I have not seen the movie in question, I don’t get a sense of *pretentiousness* from it as you do. The way it sounds for me is sort of an echo to poetry, denoting the impression of someone or someones grappling with a feeling and conveying it as a universal truth, rather than an ostentatious statement on its own importance.

    As for the phenomena of hype itself, while I am sympathetic to the pervasiveness of extensive publicity for shows spread by fervent fans, I believe it’s ultimately down to the individual to take the responsibility for their expectations. I’ve gone into plenty of movies with little to no expectations because I believed hearing anything would tarnish the experience in some way. But I came to realize that going in with *some* clear idea of what I was going to see was like was better than doing so blindly.

    Vague hype buzzing like ‘You’ve got to check it out, it’s so good!’, ‘Best [anime/movie/etc.] all year!’, ‘It’s better than [X]!’, etc.. are arguably more damaging to a person’s expectations and enjoyment than more specific examples of praise, because they don’t really say anything about what they saw and what it was like. All it tells you is that they enjoyed something, they don’t know how to endorse it to others beyond excited nothing assertions, and that it is something you should also be excited about (without being given any reason to be).

    Being more specific without spoiling something isn’t always easy, especially when the hook to watch something from start to finish relies upon certain conceits, reveals, and twists. However, I believe if you want to recommend something to someone it is important to be at least somewhat detailed in the endorsement. For some, suggesting to watch Cowboy Bebop on the basis that it is one of the best anime ever might be enough, but why should you expect this to convince anyone else, particularly those who do not watch or care about anime, to watch it? Adding in details such as genre (i.e. sci-fi), themes (i.e. nihilism, regret), character descriptions (cool space mercenaries), cast and staff (Shinichiro Watanabe), etc.. might not ensure a successful endorsement, but it will at least give them a better idea about what you’re recommending them.

    There’s no stopping the circulation of hype. Best you can do is try to filter what you read and hear and manage your own expectations based on what you actually know about the subject being built up.

    1. I’ve never seen the movie(s) either. Seeing as the book was generally philosophical musings, I’m not entirely sure how it translates to celluloid.

      From the comments I’m seeing, we can in fact separate hype into two main categories. Word of mouth that grows organically from the fan community, and specifically engineered anticipation through publicity controlled by the studios. To be honest, I was really considering the latter much more than the former. I should probably revisit this post some time.

      1. As was I. Though I lumped them together in my head, the focus was more on word of mouth spread of hype (hence, “fervent fan”) than the corporately fabricated kind.

        I look forward to reading the new conclusions you come to, should you revisit the topic.

  10. while it’s quite sad to see many good shows fly under the radar, i might argue that a show that can legitimately deliver on its hype is as impressive as a sleeper hit. that being said, hype does tend to put goggles on public perception, so ive often found myself avoiding the hype shows out of…general weariness? in general, i think hype ends up being an awkward gauge to use. it’s easy to tell when a show has heavy hype or no hype, but the range in the middle can be completely dependent on your social circle. to use your examples, land of the lustrous came out of nowhere for me, but i later found out that there was a heavy manga fan base. in contrast, made in abyss was a series that i saw built up from the beginning from the same kind of manga fans. at the end of the day, i just do my best to filter it out, but i acknowledge that hype will always affect how i view shows.

    1. Well yes – Hype is indeed relative but we studios can and do put varying amounts of effort into advertising. They also start at different times. Some teasing their shows up to a year in advance. I’m not sure that’s the best move. I tend to be fed up of it before it comes out when that happens

      1. interesting. i would personally define hype as the “fan response”, rather than the general acclaim for the series. i can see where you’re getting at, but id put that into the category of “marketing” instead.

        1. well marketing is succesful when it generates buzz and interest which can translate to hype. But yeah – I approached the question from a very different angle than most of my readers if I juge from the comments.

          1. i just think if you’re going to argue that studios are too selective about how they market things, it’s hard to avoid a biased discussion since we’re presumably all consumers

  11. As A Man Who Titles Like This, I’m Offended /s

    Lol, I’m kidding, I liked how this post was actually about how marketing > content.

    Outside of anime, the Marvel movies are all hype now. Don’t get me wrong, I still really love some of them, but let’s not lie to ourselves, just a picture of Thanos doing a selfie with some obscure comicbook character will get butts in the seat. The reason why I loved Guardians of the Galaxy was because there was ZERO hype on it. Nobody gave a shit about it, but when it came out and proved itself to be GOOD without the need of anybody knowing anything about it besides the trailers, it was amazing.

    Sleeper hits are always more fun!

      1. Well, with the recent success of Made in Abyss and Land of the Lustrous, plus the overall lack of “heavy hitters” so to speak last season, I think studios are at least willing to try out new ideas.

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