I’ve been meaning to explore this subject for a while now. I read a lot of your reviews. A lot. And I see a clearly story centric trend in them. Design and production elements are clearly not given the same weight as creative ones. Even when it comes to fanservice. And that’s when they are mentioned at all. I’m not implying that this is a bad thing by any means, I’m just as guilty (which is weird, I’ll tell you why later). It is however an interesting trend. I don’t really read professional anime reviews anymore so it may not be as true for them.
As we all know, anime is clearly a multidisciplinary art form. Of course the narrative and story elements are an important part but so are the myriad of technical aspects that go into crafting an enjoyable show. Anime is meant to be a sensory experience as much as an intellectual one. If not more. Without the images, animation, soundtrack and voice acting, it really wouldn’t be the same thing.
Moreover each of those aspects breaks down into a myriad of other smaller components, all requiring their own skills and tools to bring about. Images don’t boil down simply to pretty character designs. These must stay consistent with movements and angles so details have to be carefully chosen. Backgrounds need attention to is you don’t want that weird and cheap effect that makes it look as if the anime is shot on green screen. Colours can deeply affect the emotional resonance of a scene or even the story at large. Lights and shadows add depth, help you see better what’s happening and add to dynamic realism which in turn helps with suspension of disbelief.
Personally, I’m a bit less sensitive to audio but I’ve often pointed out the drastically underrated importance of environmental sound design. I think we all know a great voice actor can go a long way in adding to the enjoyment factor of a series. And some of you will occasionally suggest anime on the merits of the soundtrack alone.
Point is, the story is part of a much bigger whole, and the most technically simple part at that. Heck, even I could write a story. It probably wouldn’t be great but I could do it. That’s way more than I can say about anything else I just mentioned.
And I feel like I should point this out now, I think I attach way more importance on these aspects than the average fan. From what I gather, there are many anime I really enjoyed because they were well made that others disliked because they were not written that well. Despite all this, I still find myself dedicating much more space, time and passion on average, to the plot, dialogue or characters. As I said above, a good number of bloggers hardly mention practical elements at all unless they’re particularly bad. Why?
I don’t know. This isn’t unique to anime. Although movie reviews and critiques do tend to pay a lot of attention to acting, everything else, including direction and editing is usually presented as secondary to story. I pretty much never see book reviews discuss cover art or paper quality unless they’re making a sarcastic point. Even manga reviews don’t always mention the art. That’s most of the thing!
Sorry. I got a little heated there.
As I mentioned, this lack of consideration for technical merits is baffling to me. Ok, I can kind of understand when it comes to book reviews. Those elements change from one edition to the next (throw in eBooks and you have a whole different world) and they are somewhat immaterial to your enjoyment of the end product. This said I would be smitten by a reviewer that gave out the paper weight used with every hardcover edition of whatever they were reviewing….
But why aren’t we …no let me correct that, why aren’t I paying more attention to the production values of anime? I obviously care about them. In my defense, I think that part of it lies in the fact that when done right, all the technical components of a series are supposed to seamlessly blend together in order to create one smooth cohesive experience you can immerse yourself in. Being inconspicuous is a mark of quality. Second, like most people, if a story grabs me, my imagination takes over and pushes everything else out of the way. So while an exceptionally well crafted show won’t stop me from enjoying a wonderful plot, a great narrative will distract me from technical merits.
That’s not fair. There are tons of people working really hard on those. I can’t promise I won’t get lost in stories anymore but I will try to pay more attention to everything else that goes into making a great show. And at least for today, I would encourage you to do the same.