In Defence of Nitpicking Anime

Once in a while I post random screencaps I have taken, to twitter without context. It’s a fun little game. What can I say, I’m easily entertained! Since I watched Land of the Lustrous recently, I was posting caps from that show and posted one of Cinnabar blushing. This one to be precise:

Land of the Lustrous

Cute pic!

To this I got a response along the lines of “I just realized this but how is she even blushing in the first place”. From there on we went on a series of tangents of how the intrusions being organic microorganisms may be chemically reacting or maybe it’s the natural mineral pigment peaking through the powder…

It was the sort of useless nit picky little conversation that completely misses the point of the series. The sort of thing that makes people dislike Cinema Sins so much and bemoan the decline of cinema criticism as an art. I agree, in the grand scheme this detail doesn’t matter and has no bearing on the quality of the storytelling or the anime in general. I don’t think the answer or lack there of should affect anyone’s enjoyment. But I kind of like this stuff as well.

I just find it really fun to explore and ferret out all the little aspects of an anime I enjoyed. I loved measuring chasms in the universally accepted unit of “Isabellas” to pretend to math out the Promised Neverland. Yes it’s fiction. Yes these details are not to be taken at face value. And I appreciate that a lot of people think that putting in so much thought on these little things is a waste of both time and brain capital.

Promised Neverland - Isabella yardstick 2

it’s sort of a long story…

Nevertheless, I not only enjoy going on these little though journeys, I really like when other people do it too. Mythbusters was one of my favourite shows for the longest time. That’s why I wanted to take a minute to see if I could find anything commendable about the practice beyond the that I personally enjoy it. And the answer is no…

I mean not on most levels. It’s true that if you have tunnel vision and latch on too much to the viability of every little detail in a fictional universe, you’re very likely to lose track of the greater themes and sort of miss the forest for the trees. And even if the person pointing out the nit picks isn’t doing that, I can see how it might influence others. On a critical or review level there’s really not that much to be gained.

And even of a narrative level… Although I do appreciate attention to detail and authors who do their homework to inject stories with real world science and history always earn my respect, I have also seen stories get unpleasantly weighted down by such considerations. In the end, injecting realism doesn’t guarantee a superior fiction. In fact most of my favourite series tend to be deeply allegorical and surreal, where the actual things happening are almost arbitrary or at least mostly symbolic. The types of stories that would be destroyed by being confined by the laws of physics.

Kyousougiga ep9 (7)

how does that hammer/universe thing work anyways?

I really enjoyed Land of the Lustrous. I’m so happy the writer wasn’t trapped by the improbability of deeply emotional rocks or that no one felt compelled to spend the entire season explaining the rational of localized memory constructs. (No one ever gets memories right…). And I’m grateful it didn’t explain how Cinnabar was blushing.

But I still enjoyed thinking about it with a fellow fan.

And this is where I finally make a point. The value of nitpicking anime for me is on a dreamer level. It brings nothing to the fiction, it doesn’t make me a better reviewer in any way and it won’t make me appreciate an anime any more or less. The only thing it does is that for tiny little moments in time, it allows me to sort of share the same universe as series that have captured my imagination. It gives me the chance to tackle just tiny little manageable slivers of lore and hold them in my mind and shape them into something I can almost touch. Something that could exist in the same world as I do even if just for a split second.

Madoka-Magica-puella-magi-madoka-magica-34614678-500-270

I wanted anime magic but I guess I got magical girl – still works

That is the one thing I get out of nitpicking anime but oh my, what a great thing it is! And to me, it’s also very valuable. It’s all that magic and wonder that draws me to imaginary worlds in the first place slowly bridged into my own personal every day. I love it. Even though I’m not inclined to it, I think that pointing out continuity errors or acting gaffs is a similar impulse. A way of projecting oneself into the production. There’s a lot of longing and admiration behind it.  But sadly both my time and mind are limited so I can’t do it as much as I want. It’s not that easy to create a good nitpick you know. There’s a lot of research involved. So that’s why I want other people to do it for me…

O.k., now that I’m rereading this it really is just I’m defending anime nitpicking cause I personally like it. Succotash. (I’ve been told that children read this blog occasionally which is deeply disturbing to me)

Here’s my TL:DR on this one. Yes, nitpicking the realism of little details in anime is completely useless and adds nothing to the experience of watching or reviewing said anime. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing it any way as long as you send me a link!

Do you enjoy going into way too much detail about anime and taking every little thing may too seriously? Does it annoy you when other people do so? Is there a nitpicky little issue that has always bothered you about an anime you love?

Rini 2020 (11)

 

 

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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18 Responses

  1. I’ve read this post several times over the past month and I still quite figured out how to respond. My blog is based entirely on nitpicking anime. I mean I don’t think I am detracting from the reading or watching experience, but at the same time, anything can be taken to far.

    • Irina says:

      I think it depends a lot on the intent. Nitpicking isn’t criticism or reviewing. It’s something else. I think as long as the author doesn’t confuse those, it can be great fun

  2. fiddletwix says:

    I love nitpicking lol Both doing it and hearing/reading others doing it. I dunno – I just find myself highly entertained going down the rabbit holes of small (or even large) problems in logic or ‘realism’ no matter if you can just shoo it away with suspension of disbelief or fantasy worlds or whatever. Granted, I think I sometimes come off as being overly negative when I nitpick, no matter if it affects my final verdict on a show/episode/manga/movie or not. A lot of the times, even if I rant or ramble, the nitpick I’m talking about doesn’t affect my experience all that much, if at all, but I do come off like that sometimes, I’m afraid.

    Now, if people take nitpicking too far, like they say their experience was ruined because of these tiny details or they damn the piece of media for it, I think that’s when it needs to come into question.

    For instance, a slight nitpick would be ‘This character doesn’t have the same hair/eye color as they did in the book/manga!’ Is this something to note? Sure. Is this something to talk about? Certainly. But does affect your experience at all? Probably not. I’d hate to see something that was good get blasted down several points in rating just because of silly things that, ultimately, don’t matter.

    However, if the nitpick, even minor, did affect the experience because, for instance, aforementioned hair/eye color was actually important to the story in some way, then establishing that that fact affected your experience would be understandable.

    Otherwise, I find most people nitpick just because the nitpicks in question are either interesting or fun to discuss. They mean no harm. I can understand how some people would find any instance of it annoying or negative, though.

    • Irina says:

      I find that discussing little random issues extends the experience of shows I liked. For me ‘This character doesn’t have the same hair/eye color as they did in the book/manga!’ doesn’t even sound negative. It’s just a statement. And it’s interesting. Why did they change the colour? Does it have narrative significance. Does it read better on a screen? Is that ink colour cheaper….Cause obviously people still use ink to colour anime…. I’m 100 years old!

  3. RisefromAshes says:

    There’s a balance. Some people say “this is only a nitpick” and then go on an extended tangent about why or what something is wrong in a series. You can just save yourself the time and say you didn’t like that, rather then hide it. I consider a nitpick to be a smaller point that, for whatever reason, sticks with you throughout the series despite it having no major bearing on the plot or story.

    It’s always intersting to see what other people consider a ‘nitpick’ over a ‘deal breaker’ when watching though.

    • Irina says:

      My nitpicks usually don’t really assume anything is wrong mind you. They’re more exploration than argument

  4. Whether or not I care for nitpicking depends on how glaring the discrepancy in question is. Are the continuity/plothole issues as bad as they are in the Star Wars sequel trilogy? In the final episodes of Game of Thrones? If so, then nitpick away. If it’s being used to claim an anime isn’t abiding by the laws of real world science/physics/whatever, then I really don’t care for it. Of course anime isn’t realistic, and if all of it was, it’d likely be worse off for it. It’s a medium for escapism, whimsy, and ‘what ifs’, after all, where imagination reigns supreme.

    So yeah, it really depends on the specific context. Are there established rules to the fictional universe in question that are being broken? Go ahead and nitpick, because that’s the author’s fault. But some people have virtually zero suspension of disbelief, and I honestly don’t think they can enjoy fiction without trying to bring it down to their level and beat it at their own game. It’s a big pet peeve of mine, as it usually seems more about the Nitpicker’s ego rather than having a fun, lighthearted discussion. I do understand there are exceptions to this, however. Anyhoo, interesting article, as always. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. The only time I start picking the nits out of an anime is if it is borderline. If I love an anime errors all get swept under the rug of suspended disbelief. If I dislike an anime I never get that far. No sense in getting into the details of a show where the broad picture is a fail.

    Besides, it is better to use a comb than to pick nts.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m a very observant person and i can easily notice flaws that you’d probably wouldn’t noticed in your first watchthrough or playthrough.
    Case in point in Bayonetta Bloody Fate I noticed a very odd English dubbing error and if you played Bayonetta you’d understand the reference “Its not Luka its Cheserie” and normally it would always be the otherway around.
    Small things like these can make a big difference when writing a review.
    -K(rogueotakugamer)

    • Anonymous says:

      Hell i can’t even count on both hands on how much beyond ridclous stuff that could have been avoided but was added in for the sake of padding the storyline due to the scriptwriters having characters make really beyond dumb decisions. Like the entire scenario with Morgana and Ryuji in mid game of persona 5.

  7. Dawnstorm says:

    Nitpicking anime is fun to do and to read about. You sometimes learn interesting things from specialists, as an added bonus. Other than that, I agree with negativeprimes: it’s the speculative-fiction impulse. I don’t think I’ve had a case where nitpicks ruined a show for me, but many where they made the show more fun to watch (e.g. Colourful Pastrale).

  8. The only time I would nitpick if there are continuity errors. Yes it does sound a bit of an effort to make and my focus would lead to there more than anything else. Got this when I watched the ongoing anime Arte this season. In one episode the narrator said it has been 6 months since a character stayed at this place. And that took place between episode 3 and 4. The weird thing is nothing really changed among the characters. I would like to add more but it will lessen my appreciation for what it is.

    • Irina says:

      Narrative continuity! I think that’s very viable for reviewers to mention. I was talking more about filming continuity, as in the character’s hair colour is inconsistent or the relative placement of certain objects slightly changes from on frame to the next or with varying distance and angles.

  9. negativeprimes says:

    Hey, I like CinemaSins! But I do think there’s a difference in that kind of nitpicking vs the kind you’re describing here. CS is deliberately critical and cynical, whereas the debating about inorganic blushing arises from the same “what if” impulse that gave rise to speculative fiction in the first place. In other words, it’s an homage to the story itself, a way of taking it seriously without taking it *too* seriously. It’s not necessary, and the fact that we engage in it anyway I think honors the story and its creators.

    • Irina says:

      Oh my you nitpicked my post… Joking! You’re right it is a tribute to the work. At least it is for me

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