There’s an occasional tepid debate that gets revived every so often in the anime community which essentially is: should manga (source material) be taken into consideration when reviewing or even interpreting anime.

I (as well as anime, reviewing and blogging authority Karandi) have always been pretty steadfast in insisting that anime adaptations are a stand alone medium and should be considered as such. If a show is incomprehensible without reading the manga then I’m sorry but it’s just incomplete, and that’s a failure of the anime. Some stories might be so great as to warrant the extra effort but it’s still overcoming a drawback not eliminating it. This is the straightforward question.

anime question mark
confused anime girl is probably the most frequently used pic on this blog

The more complex and debatable one is: does (should) author’s intention matter when watching and (mostly) reviewing anime? What I mean is, should there be any tempering of viewer interpretation? I have personally been guilty of assigning lofty aspirations to creators of particular series, and in turn praising said series based on those aspirations. Or mitigating bad viewing experiences because of a supposed great message behind it all, whether I actually saw that message or not. And the really tricky part is that those outside influences are also part of the viewing experience.

Let me try to explain. For this, I’ll go back to a fan favourite when it comes to arguing about random anime things: Madoka. I saw Puella Magi Madoka Magica (I have to look up the exact name every time…) like I see most anime. Knowing next to nothing about it going in. I knew it was very very popular from having heard the name so much throughout the years but that’s it. I watched it. I liked some things about it, others less. I disliked the pacing and some of the camera work but adored the Homura reveal… Anyways, that’s not the point. After seeing it, I started paying attention to reviews and articles on the show, now that I actually knew what they were talking about. I was genuinely confused at seeing Madoka consistently praised as a Yuri show.

The series I had seen was an ode to friendship. Homura’s devotion to Madoka was the desperation of a lonely girl trying to save the life of one of the very few friends she had, compounded by her sense of guilt at believing herself the cause of her friend’s suffering. I interpreted pointed looks as worried concern or fondness rather than desire. I naturally saw it as a story of two people who cared enough about each other not to want the other to die with no ulterior motives. Personally, I didn’t pick up on any homosexual undertones or really any sexual elements at all.

Madoka hug.jpg
what can I say, I’m a little slow on the uptake

But boy did everyone else….To most people the sexual undertones seem as obvious as the ones in Revolutionary Girl Utena, a story that explicitly tackles gender norms, identity and sexual orientation. Odds are if you randomly look up a list of great lesbian romances in anime, you will see Madoka mentioned somewhere. And you see, both interpretations are right. To me Madoka will never be a story exploring homosexuality, and if I had watched it hoping for that, I would have been disappointed. As such I can’t recommend it to others on that basis but I will mention that some viewers did see such themes. And I would fully expect those viewers to recommend it as such. What I won’t mention, and haven’t even bothered to consider at all, is whether Gen Urobuchi wrote those themes into his work.

Basically, even if we consider art to be a form of self expression (and anime an art form), it’s a one way streak. Once the story has left the authors’ hands, and the images have been wrest away from the illustrators, the show belongs wholly to the audience.

As such, if a studio decides to put out a show that’s meant to parody fanservice tropes and practices (cough Kill la Kill) but falls short in humour or execution it could end up being enjoyed only on the basis of the fanservice it was trying to call out (cough NOT Kill la Kill), then it’s not a parody . It’s just ironically promoting the elements it was trying to mock and effectively just another echhi show, regardless of the original intentions.

But remember when I said that outside influences can’t be disregarded all together either. Well if we take my ecchi show example above. Maybe I watched it and was left with an impression of a smutty show that was a bit too precious.

anime kiss him not me.jpg
was thinking about smutty anime – I’m back now

Let’s say I then reviewed this show accordingly. That’s fine. It’s my honest experience and one that’s likely to be shared by anyone that’s similar to me, in comparable circumstances. Because I have the smartest readers, someone will surely comment that it’s one big joke (and they’ll do it nicely, because I also have the sweetest readers). At this point, maybe I’ll think to myself, well it wasn’t a very funny joke and nothing will change. The again, maybe this knowledge will shift my perspective and I’ll suddenly see the same show as a brilliant subtle subversion.

However, the important element here isn’t the original intentions of the creator but the evolution of my personal vision of the work and the lasting impact it made on me.

I realize I may be contradicting myself. I once wrote a post about my views on sexualized fanservice in which I basically said that the deciding factor (for me) between creepy and enjoyable fanservice, was intent. At first glance, this is essentially the opposite of my earlier post. But what I meant was perceived intent. I’m pretty sure actual fanservice intent is always: catching!

As I’m writing this, I realize I don’t have a neat way to bring it all together. I came across the expression “in the end only audience remains”, in a text about writing plays and more specifically cautionary tales. It illustrated for playwrights, the dangers of having a moral tale have a drastically different effect than intended on the audience if it’s too subtle, unclear or too *clever*. And that in the long-run it doesn’t matter what you meant, it matters what the masses understood. i.e. Only the audience remains. I really liked the expression.

not that type of “play”

It reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” which clearly says: don’t sweat the details man…some things just don’t matter. It was meant as a gentle mocking of people who obsesses over the slightest thing. The famous last line (eerily applicable):

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
is suppose to be sarcastic.

Yet in the wastes of time has come to be viewed as a plea for originality and carefully laying out your path in life. And even though most of us know this, we still often think of the road less traveled by its interpreted meaning rather than its intended one.

We see similar effects all the time. We even have actual words that have lost their original meaning, and had their definitions revised. You can’t fight the people.

So, as I was reading all this random stuff (I lead an exciting life folks) I figured that this notion, of attributing ultimate meaning of a piece to the beholder rather than the creator, was of particular interest to those that analyse an review “art”. I’m not sure what the lesson is mind you. That’s what I’m trying to figure out with you guys. But I’m going to reassess the importance I give to what an anime was trying to do versus what it actually does.

Let me ask you guys, do you agree with this or are you of the opinion that an author always has authority on his own work? That he or she is voice of God and if you don’t see a story the same way, then you’re simply misinterpreting things? There’s an argument to be made for that side too.

I’m very intrigued by this

53 thoughts

  1. I used to be a major “I liked the book better” critic when I saw the movie. But I’ve matured. I’ve realized movies are not books, and simply cannot recreate the inner details or narration of a book – although some actors are tremendous at saying so much with one look. I’ve also become a published writer and had the experience of reading a review from someone who saw so much more, or something completely different, than I thought I wrote or at least that I had in mind. Some people really give me too much credit! To me, my reaction is WOW, that’s cool – I wonder why they thought that (sometimes they’ll tell me). I think it is possible to see things in a writers work (and here I will include screen writers, anime writers, for that matter, GAME writers, as well as us print dinosaurs) that they may not have seen or intended. Some of it may be subconscious work on the writers part, and some is clearly in the eye of the beholder. We all interpret everything through the filter of our own lives, our own experiences.

    To get back on subject – I watch far more anime than I read manga. If I watch an anime and it makes no sense unless someone in the comments is giving background from the manga – then I don’t have time for this. The anime, IMHO, needs to stand on it’s own. A movie – even one inspired by a book – needs to stand on it’s own. If you have to read to enjoy the show, it ceases to be enjoyment and entertainment and becomes a homework assignment. That said, yes, I might watch an anime and love it so much I go read the manga, and visa versa, but that should be a choice not a necessity.

    And once you create something – be it art, writing, whatever – once you release it to the world – then it’s theirs to enjoy, or hate, or interpret however they see it. Try and keep an open mind as a creator and you might learn something about yourself – or even be inspired.

    That also kind of comes back to movie or anime interpretations as well. A book, and to some extent a manga, is the creation of one or two people who share an idea, inspiration, purpose. But a movie or anime – well just look at the credits. In some cases literally hundreds of people have contributed their own creativity, their own ideas, their own interpretation of what you were writing about. By the time they have all had input, it isn’t surprising that it may be something completely different. Me, personally, I’d be pretty wowed that they were inspired by my little work, and thrilled to see what they created as well. Even if it wasn’t what I saw in my head – it might be better! But that’s just me.

    1. I actually adore that you have the writer’s perspective. I always wonder if creators get mad when people see things in their work that they didn’t intend to put in there, be it good or bad. It’s great to see that you think of your art as a living thing that can take on a life and meaning that’s independent of you. The art gets shaped by the public as well as the artist….

  2. I guess I only started seeing Madoka Magica as yuri after soaking in too much internet opinion for too long. I’m an easily influenced person that way – initially the relationship was only platonic but very clingy yet also valiant (note I haven’t seen Rebellion). It was much the same way with YoI after the kiss debacle – I still saw them as platonic until the creator confirmed it was a kiss. Then again, I have a complicated relationship with shipping in general…that’s why I used to say “I only ship canon couples”.

    Basically, what I’m saying is every viewpoint has validity and each is equal as the other. (Although as mentioned earlier, I can get carried away with common fan opinions in some cases.) Even when you wholeheartedly believe X character is a couple with Y character, you still need to remember in the back of your mind the creator said the official ship is X and Z in order to interact with other fans. People can read into a thing all they like and so long as there is no evidence to the contrary made up specifically to shoot down another person’s views (although there should be priority given to the creator), it should be fine to believe in. That’s the beauty of art.

    As for the source material vs. adaption argument, I can only speak for whatever I get my hands on and each has its pros and cons if I manage to see both. For instance, Koe no Katachi’s manga elaborates on side characters (such as the teacher, Naoka, Shouya’s sister’s family and Kazuki) more but the movie shows young Shouya’s idle days more and so you understand him better. That’s part of my opinion, at least.

    1. So you pretty much agree with me. I also think every point of vue has it’s validity and trying to find a correct interpretation of art is a foolish endeavour that misses the point.
      However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t interpret anime – just that every interpretation has it’s own worth.

    2. Yeah. Not every close same sex relationship has to be yuri or yaoi. I really hate it when people start shouting “Yuri!” because a couple of middle school girls hold hands. I suppose if that’s what you want to see, that’s what you’ll see. Anime producers take advantage of that.

      1. True. I also get annoyed by gratuitous shipping mostly because it makes it seem as if friendship isn’t as important…I don’t want my friends to die even if I’m not sleeping with them…

  3. I can’t speak from a magaka point of view but I can as an author (kindof I’m no where near to being published). Deep breath.
    So there are some authors who will not sell their movie rights because they see movies as something that will wreak the work they have created. After all I can agree with any form of art it like a piece of your soul. They are afraid of the message or theme being destroyed when their work is turned into a movie. BUT…
    They should also know that book sales do better when the movie comes out so in the end more people are exposed to their work AND
    Most will always say that the books are better so they are reaching a bigger audience by letting their work being turned into a movie.

    On the other hand selling your rights usually amounts to nothing. You get a check, and 9 times out of 10 they don’t even make the movie.

    In the end I have this point of view. This is just me. IF I am ever lucky enough to sell my movie/TV rights I will take it. In my mind I will see my book and the movie as something separate. They will be different and they both will stand in their own way. I think that is something that authors need to think about. I know fans can get upset if the movie is way off of the book but they also need to think that authors (unless they are super famous) really don’t make that much money. And with movie rights you can make a nice amount.

    I’ve had to go without for a long time so man if I could sell movie rights I would do it. And I think it helps those who create to think of them as two separate forms of the story. Also again you can reach people that you never would reach with different mediums.

    I like going into anime without reading the source material. I think with anime I’d rather be surprised. There are only a few manga that I have read without watching the anime first. I tend to read anime if I want to see if there was any other hidden moments behind the story.

    Also once again I think I just went down a tangent that had nothing to do with anything….

    1. “So there are some authors who will not sell their movie rights because they see movies as something that will wreak the work they have created.”

      Harlan Ellison was like that! And on the occasions where he did sell his stories to be be made into television or movies, the stories I’ve seen suggested he was an absolute terror to any director, costume designer, or anyone else who didn’t match his vision exactly.

      I can’t blame him. But I agree with you — “IF I am ever lucky enough to sell my movie/TV rights I will take it.”

        1. Well, I certainly hope to give you the opportunity some day! In fact, I’ve made time tonight to work on the beats for “A Ghast in the Machine.” And I’m listening to the Re:CREATOR’s soundtrack to do it! Talk about creative music…

      1. Yeah and honestly some books don’t translate well if they are going to stick to everything exactly. Really some movies could use a good editor and it is impossible to include everything from the book.
        And I can’t spell wreck haha. Oh well.

  4. There’s a reason the phrase “You have your yuri goggles on too tight” is a thing (although maybe not as big a thing now as it used to be). There are fans who will see yuri in any relationship between two women, just like there are fans who will see BL in any relationship between two men.

    But for the main point, I’ve always thought that it’s better as a consumer to watch an adaptation prior to reading source material, even if it’s manga (maybe especially if it’s manga). I’ve always felt that that order maximizes the enjoyment of both presentations while minimizing the dissonance that can arise from an adaptation not following source material exactly. I find it’s much easier for my brain to adjust memory of what happened, what things looked like, etc, from the visual media to the printed media, rather than the other way around.

    Part and parcel of this thinking is that the adaptation needs to stand on its own, tho. If a show is perceived as bad, then no amount of exhortation that “you must read the source material to understand everything!” is going to make me interested in it. Yeah, I should read the source material for a show that I think is crap? That’s going to make me think it’s not crap? Yeah, I don’t think so, I’ve got other things I’m much more interested in.

    Now maybe a show falls in the middle, and is good or medium-good, but seems to have inconsistencies and unexplained bits, or has dropped threads or unresolved plot lines. I don’t have anywhere near as much problem with those things as a lot of fans seem to, as there seems to be a desire on the part of viewers to squash any ambiguity out of what they watch, and that “world building” has to all happen at the beginning of a presentation and then everything must be explained to their satisfaction, or it’s “bad” and has “plot holes”. Those people can take a long walk off a short pier. But if I’m interested, it would be good to see if there is a resolution in the source material (sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t).

    I mostly think that people should be less denigrating of the way others enjoy or don’t enjoy things. Everyone experiences everything differently, and just because someone watched the same show as you doesn’t mean that they will view it the same way. What you find reverberates in your soul probably won’t have nearly as much meaning to someone else. It’s not wrong to express how something affects you, but it’s not right to tell other people how they should enjoy it.

  5. I barely read any manga (can’t be doing with online versions – it’s print or nothing for me) so the anime is my only exposure to a certain property, thus it is the one that is judge.

    As soon as I see “oh the manga’s better” on MAL over the slightest change it makes my toes curl up. Any adaptation from page to screen is going to be different – it’s the nature of the beast, so it should be judged on its own merits. That said if the changes are drastic and betray the source material then we have a right to comment on this, unlike the knee jerk reactions of the parochial fandom after the first episode, otherwise critique based on comparison is spurious at best.

  6. And I also consider anime as a stand alone product. You need to because that is how most people will see it. Millions of American kids watch Adult Swim but few will ever read the manga or the lite novel or play the game for the shows. They cannot be logically considered a package deal.

  7. Wow! You understand Frost!!!!! The two roads were nearly identical.

    I think trying counts for something. I may be different but I do try to ferret out what an author is trying to say. It informs my interpretation. My review may go ” A for idea, F for execution. I give him a C overall.” The world is full of art that makes no sense until someone smarter than you explains it and it becomes wonderful.

    I enjoyed Perfect Blue as a psychological thriller and a brutally honest expose of the idol and movie industries. That is because author’s intent is important to me and I interpret everything in that light.

    My wife hated it because unapologetically showing that kind of content with such clarity must mean the author and viewers got off on seeing it happen. (For some male otakus, she may be right.) She doesn’t care what the author’s intent was. That level of degradation should not be shown.

    Different strokes, I guess. I blogged about it.

  8. When it comes to madoka magical, I always thought the relationship between the characters was like Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings. Buddies that have been through war with each other which is very platonic in nature.

    And on this argument, the Creator and studio involved with the anime or whatever may have the rights and have come up with the idea of what the produce, but the fans still can this media and do whatever they want with it. I mean, fanfiction and fan art exist for a reason. The officiall can try to control their product, but they are fighting a losing battle.

    1. I hadn’t even thought of the fanfiction angle… That brings a whole other layer to it. Like that poor guy who wrote KnB and almost had a heart attack because of all the shippping.

  9. Well, if you view art as an act of cummunication, both reader’s interpretation and author’s intention are important, and neither is solely in charge of the meaning. If you view art as a product to be consumed, it’ll make sense to figure out how you’d have to interpret the show so you can get the most out of it (and what you’re able to plausibly accept). If you’re talking to others on the net you have to consider alternative interpretation (and you can assign the author’s intention the role of “just another interpretation” or “priviledged interpretation”, depending on how you roll). And there’s always also a context to consider: genre, social context, ect.

    So are Homura and Madoka a couple? On the textual level, I can’t see evidence for it, but neither can I see evidence against it. Personally, I don’t see it. Because I like the friendship interpretation, and because I feel that there’s an omni-shipping culture that – if taken to the extreme – would pretty much eliminate friendshipstories, I’m biased against the couple-interpretation. But at the same time, I recognise that good lesbian romances are rather rare, when compared to hetero-romances, so I also have sympathy with people who see this as yuri. Now, “heterosexual romance” is still a cultural default: i.e. if you deviate from the model, it’s up to you to declare yourself or live the consequences. And here’s the thing, the “they’re friends” view is important to my aromantic identity, but it’s also the dominant default, because they’re both girls. I would profit from affirming the status quo. Meanwhile, the “they’re a couple” interpretation is of benefit to lesbians, but also to hetero exoticism. The best way to proceed is, IMO, to pick the interpretation that lets you enjoy the show the most, but to not insist on that interpretation. That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to accept all the reasoning behind it. “They can’t be a couple because they’re both girls,” is a lousy argument, and so is, “they have to be a couple, or they wouldn’t go that far for each other”. So there are bad reasons to hold a perfectly valid interpretation, and that complicates the discourse.

    Since I’m a relativist, I think whether something is good or bad is always debatable, but you should know that you’re likely losing sympathy points with me if you’re trying to argue that “they can’t be a couple because they’re both girls,” and that you’re likely pushing me further into my shell, if you argue that “they have to be a couple if they go that far for each other”.

    And that’s sort of the kicker here: we’re not always aware of the reasons that make us choose our interpretations, and we might be defaulting to an interpretation for reasons that we’d consider bad if we were aware of them (or maybe we are aware of them at some level, but aren’t ready to admit them to ourselves). So what happens if you become aware of a less-than-flattering motivation? I’m not a huge fan of guilt over being who you are, but I’m also not a huge fan of indulging in what you think is wrong. Face your inner darkness, and then keep it under control so you don’t hurt anyone. (I sort of read this theme into Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge. Is that the way to interpret it?)

    For authors, hidden motivations are doubly important, because they influence what goes onto the page/screen. It’s not just about what you’re enjoying; you’re creating something that many people may watch, and hopefully enjoy. To what extent are you responsible for what your readers read into the text? If readers interpret you in a way that’s distasteful for you, should you speak out? This is far from an easy question, but an author’s intention certainly matters to the author; and in a worst-case scenario you might be made into the posterbook example for a distasteful movement, and to top it off you realise some unflattering things about yourself. And it all plays out in public.

    As long as people care about authors and become their fans, what the author thinks about their own work, IMO, is important. But you shouldn’t assume you can tell an author’s intention simply from reading the text. What’s more, in anime it’s not always easy to attribute a story: source material, scenario, series composition, director, episode writers, etc. are all important. Sometimes, what ends up in an anime (especially in an original like Madoka), can be the result of a complex social process. Whose intention would we be talking about then?

    Basically, I think as long as you’re just watching a show, you’re best off picking the interpretation that gives the most enjoyment while not requiring too much mental gymnastics to remain plausible. Beyond that it gets complicated. I mean, how much of an author’s intention can you even extract from a text? On the other hand, if the author were to tell you about the intention and what you’re told lets you enjoy the story more, then what? And couldn’t it have been just another reader’s different take? As long as we’re in the comment section of a blog, we’re not watching anime by ourselves. My hunch is that the author has no authority over how people read his texts, but their intentions aren’t irrelevant either. At the very least and author’s take matters every bit as much as everyone else’s. How much and in what ways an author’s intention matters differs from context to context. Psychological motivations can be opaque and social consequences unpredictable. Basically, I think interpreting a text is either a matter of private enjoyment or one social negotiation, depending on context (and the contexts aren’t likely independent from each other).

    1. Well this is a much more eloquent way to say what I was trying to say. I wish there was a way I could get the comments before I publish the posts so I can just copy paste the content

  10. To me, an author/creator having to clear things up in interviews or whatever means one of two things:
    a) they didn’t do a good job of explaining in the actual story
    b) some people are being purposefully obtuse because it interferes with their preferred headcanon or pairing or whatever.

    That being said, sometimes, authors do leave things vague on purpose, and if it was meant that way, then they should just say, “I left it up to my audience to decide.”

  11. The author can intend what they like and even explain that, but once a work is out in the world the audience has the final say on how they will take it. Certainly knowing the author’s intent will change what the audience looks for in a particular work, but ultimately the audience will weight their viewing or reading against their own experiences, others works, and even their mood at the time and their interpretation may wildly differ from the intended or from other members of the audience.
    For me, even when I’ve read the source, which has happened a few times this year, an anime still has to be able to stand on its own. However, knowing what is coming and anticipating certain moments changes how I see them. I can’t review something I’ve read the source of in the same way as anime I’m going into cold (and I never used to have this problem given I’ve only been reading light novels and manga with any frequency for the last twelve months). But I think it is important to be open with my readers when I’m reviewing something as to what my experience is with it going in.
    That said, I’ve certainly seen a lot of posts, reviews and essays regarding Madoka being Yuri and to be perfectly honest I just don’t see it. Then again, some people still try and say Victor and Yuri from Yuri on Ice are just friends so maybe it is just a matter of interpretation.

  12. OK, to foray into this: I have stated before–and continue to firmly believe–that each artistic effort is a collaborative effort between artist and audience. The artist provides the initial piece, which is then subject to the artistic embellishments of audience interpretation.

    That said, I agree that each component of a franchise (light novel, manga, anime, etc.) should stand alone as an independent artistic piece or entity. I am very seldom familiar with source material for the anime I watch and/or review, but that does nothing to lessen my enjoyment as I watch. So, does familiarity with source material enhance one’s understanding or appreciation of an anime? It might, depending upon the viewer. But that’s just not a forgone conclusion, nor does it excuse the failure of an anime to be entertaining and complete within itself. I got your back on this one, Irina. . .

  13. I never knew people viewed Madoka Magica as a yuri as I never picked up on that! 😮 It’s fascinating to see how people perceive the same thing so differently! I think although a creator has the right to the story and what they want to get across I think audience interpretation will always be a part to any kind of fiction! It’s fun to interpret things in your own way whilst also respecting whatever the author may be trying to get across! I think sometimes it’s not always clear what the author wants to express so interpretation can be good and makes for interesting reviews and perspectives!

      1. Me neither. I never got that vibe of knowing looks and secret admiring glances and too long embraces that I would associate with a romantic relationship.

        I’ve had to good fortune of knowing men who have shared war together. These men were 100% straight but from the descriptions of the love and caring between comrades-at-arms, if you put that into anime, it would be called yaoi for sure.

        Something about living intimately under harsh conditions where death could happen at any moment and your life depends on your buddy – just as his depends on yours. It produces deep love between straight men and willingness to sacrifice one’s life for another. ‘Band of Brothers” barely hints at it. The Frodo-Sam relationship from LOTR is much closer. And we have plenty of people who say all the “subtext” means they are gay.

        I may be stupid and insensitive but I will hold to my opinion that very powerful and intimate bonds of affection can develop between between people of the same gender without it being gay.

        I’d have to ask the director what his intent was before I’d call a really close relationship straight or gay. A good director would merely ask me back what I thought.

  14. I didn’t pick up on Yuri undertone either on Madoka Magica. I just saw it as a story about friendship. My take on this is the author can have intent of his work, but can’t control interpretations of that work. Neon Genesis Evangelion is the best example of this. Anno had the intention of creating a work to deliver a message against escapism. However, the opposite was taken away from it, and it eventually became thing it was criticizing with the Rebuild movies. This is despite the fact how clear the original NGE anime made it message about anti-escapism.

    I do take into account the author intent, but I also look at how the author went about telling his story. Area 88 is a great example of this. The OVA ends at a certain point where its exploration of the the effect of war lingers on the viewer mind. Whereas in the manga the ending it has negates the intention of its story, and that intention become lost to readers as a result of it. But hey, if someone wants to interpret something like Pingu as a war allegory that’s up to them. Won’t mean its correct lol

    1. NGE is such a fantastic exampke on an authors work turning against it’s creator. Brilliant pull!

  15. I had no idea people saw Madoka as yuri. These days it feels like if two people of the same gender do anything together they are seen as a “couple” in a sexual way… can’t people of the same gender just be endearing friends anymore?
    Anyways, on the topic itself..
    I’d like to say that I respect the author’s intent. But then I think of media like The Matrix, which is hotly debated as a metaphor / symbolic for MANY things. So I guess I would agree more with the audience interpretation. An author can try to input their intent, but in the end each individual can form their own ideas and will likely walk away from that media with those ideas, whether they are in line with the author’s vision or not.

  16. “The series I had seen was an ode to friendship. Homura’s devotion to Madoka was the desperation of a lonely girl trying to save the life of one of the very few friends she had, compounded by her sense of guilt at believing herself the cause of her friend’s suffering. ”

    That was my take, too. I grew up reading The Lord of the Rings, so the friendship of Frodo and Sam was a literary model for me. Madoka and Homura fit right into that.

    “Let me ask you guys, do you agree with this or are you of the opinion that an author always has authority on his own work? ”

    I suspect it’s a little of both. When we create, we bring a world into existence based on who we are. Who we are depends at least somewhat on the culture we’re a part of. Without bringing up copyright or other legal ideas, I’d say that when I unleash my characters on the world, I’m likely the closest thing to an expert on them and their world. But I could easily see that the foreshadowing, character details, and plot actions can be interpreted different ways. The example you brought up of JK Rowling was perfect — she built the world, and she happily lets others play in it.

    I think as a writer, wouldn’t that be your ultimate dream? That people love your creation so much they want to be part of it?

  17. It depends on the creator. Some creators are insanely forgiving of the weirdest canon stuff, such as J. K. Rowling, who constantly approves random fancanons about Harry Potter and opening up new plotholes in an already plothole-ridden franchise (I say this as a bigtime HP fan).

    As for Puella Magi, I can understand why yuri undertones might have been gathered by people, and I think it’s a portrayal of what latching on to another person can do to you emotionally, especially having to see them die over and over again. It’s similar to how I watched Edge of Tomorrow, you spend enough loops with a person, you start to care more about them.

    I DO agree that the yuri aspect was never the main point of the show, but the loyalty Homura shows Madoka goes above and beyond what we usually think of love and friendship, as it’s a really deep connection built over several timeloops. It’s hard to explain in-depth with a comment.

    1. Don’t worry the entire internet explains it. It’s a well known interpretation, I’m sure everyone is famiar. Like I mentionned, I personally don’t see it. The devotion seems similar HxH and personally I don’t get Yaoi from that show, the beats are super similar.

          1. I do like how the author has left it quite open to interpretation. I enjoy it when an author lets an audience see the story that they want. This can backfire of course, but most of the time, having different interpretations of the same story is what makes a story fun to discuss

            1. So you’re of the “author intent does have value in assessment” camp.
              From what I read that’s usually the viewer’s default whereas the author needs to break out form that precon in order to expand their craft.
              Of course I know nothing of this first hand. I barely qualify as a watcher.

            2. In the middle of that opinion, really. I just like to view the author’s intent and the viewer’s intent as two separate things I can enjoy and/or not enjoy. That’s why I love authors willing to let the viewers make what they want of the story without confirming too much. Keeps a show alive.

    2. Easily explained by the “Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics” school of physics where everything that could possibly happen, does. You just have to figure out which timeline you’re on. 😉

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