My relationship with the CGDCT genre has gone through a lot of permutations. Last season I was watching, and for the most part enjoying, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken when I thought to myself, huh so this is CGDCT now, look how far we’ve come!
I’ll be honest, and I’m a little scared to admit this, please don’t be mad, I thought this because the characters were layered and well developed and the show really gave them a lot of space to be themselves. Moreover, the narrative relied greatly on the strength of it’s characters rather than fanservice (both the sexy or the cute kind) or saccharine moments. This isn’t a very generous view of the genre as a whole. And a lot that is entirely in my head, but not all.
I originally thought about writing a post on the actual evolution of the cute girls doing cute things genre, showing how tropes and narratives have changed with time. Admittedly, I figured I would be illustrating how the genre got more complex and, for lack of a better word, interesting. A confirmation bias post. Not so cool. I know a bit about it but I’m nowhere near an expert on the subject so I decided to do some research.
The fact that I am not writing that post might give you a clue how it went. It did make me realize a few things though.
The first thing I found out, or maybe remembered, is that I use to really like CGDCT. I have always liked it well enough, but at one point, and for a long time, it was one of my favourite genres. Like any genres there were hits and misses but I tended to seek out those shows and was mostly happy with what I saw. For a very long time I would never have thought of them as fanservice vehicles or home to underdeveloped characters. Not at all in fact. That bias came later.
So what happened in the last few years that made me change my perception of a certain, very prolific, class of anime? Well the answer is kinda weird. I started a blog…
To be completely fair about it, at a certain point the market did get a bit saturated with CGDCT shows and as always happens in those cases, we ended up with a lot of subpar entries. Also I may just have gotten a bit fatigued and stopped seeking the genre as much simply because I had just seen too much of it, in too short a period of time. But it’s not just that.
I stopped watching for a while and have gotten back into it lately and my experience is much closer to what I remember it to be years ago. I’m mostly enjoying these shows. Some or not as great but that happens with every single genre. The difference is, I’m watching shows that have finished airing and I’m not looking into them much.
In my personal experience, the fandoms of CGDCT shows have been some of the most defensive and occasionally aggressive fandoms I have been exposed to. Even neutral comments were seen as attacks. And I mean completely neutral, like the night scene was dark but still had some bits of sunset colours in the sky. There is nothing here to get upset about. Or at least that’s what I thought.
Through my blog I started to be much more aware of the greater anime community. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m an active part of it or anything but I occasionally have a general idea of what’s going on or where public opinion is at. And I do like seeing what other people have to say about anime. That is the basic point of starting my blog, having a venue to chat about anime with other people.
But that experience soured me a bit in my specific views on this one enre. Weird. I have a few less than glowing reviews on shows of this genre and I have gotten some rather bad backlash over it. By far worse than anything else I have experienced through this blog. That’s no fun. Oddly though, that’s not really what influenced me. It was actually the unflinching positivism that was worse. Well for me.
For just about any show in the genre, I have been told by someone that it is a masterpiece. A perfect anime without any flaws at all. No issues, no problems, no production hiccups. Every character, even those that are kind of just there and don’t get any development or agency, are the best character ever. And I sort of decided that maybe I had grown out of the genre.
After watching a series of shows I had been enthusiastically assured were pure genius and finding them, alright… maybe a little boring. Or getting to know dozens of characters that were supposedly brilliant and not personally finding that much interesting about them beyond their character design, I figured that maybe I just didn’t get it anymore. I had lost whatever sensibility that had once drawn me to the genre and made me enjoy it so. It certainly doesn’t help that overly cutesy characters tend to get on my nerves unless they’re pets.
So I sort of stopped watching. I figured if I wasn’t enjoying the masterpieces of what these shows have to offer then what’s the point. The rest is only going to get worse.
I was so pleasantly surprised to watch a whole bunch of these shows lately and find them all pretty good. And I realized that part of it was that when I hit some episodes I thought were sort of slow or not as well made, I didn’t have a bunch of tweets proclaiming them the gold standard of the season! When I wrote that a character was not as fun as the rest, I wasn’t subject to continuous lists naming them in the top 10 characters of the year or something. In the end, when I finished these shows, I thought they were pretty great, if not perfect, instead of thinking that hey weren’t quite as good as I was told.
Don’t get me wrong, being enthusiastic about series you like isn’t a bad thing. At least I don’t think. I do it a lot myself. But sometimes I wonder if I may be doing shows I really love a disservice by glossing over or failing to acknowledge the rougher parts. The places where it could be improved upon. I am pretty certain that past series I ended up sort of disliking, I would have enjoyed a lot more if I watched them now and without any external influence. I fact I probably would have liked them. At least 2 come to mind.
I used the CGDCT genre here because that’s what my personal experience was. But I’m sure it applies to any genre and almost anything really. Not everything needs to be perfect in order to be great!