The Evolution of My Views on the CGDCT Genre & The Dangers of Positivism

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.

GhostInTheShell1A

let’s try to fix that

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…

Closeup_on_Karen_writing_a_fan_letter_to_Kanzaki_Elsa_AGGO_S01E03

I was so optimistic and naive…

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.

anime computer girl

loneliness – solved!

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.

one piece

Masterpiece…One Piece… you get it

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!

Rini 3 (2)

Irina

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

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35 Responses

  1. Redgeek says:

    Had no idea what CGDCT meant. So that’s the name for shows like that. Okay.

    Anyway, I never had a problem with shows like that. I don’t watch them anymore (watched a little years ago) because they all blend together. It’s the same personalities put together under a thin veil of a plot. That’s fine if that’s your thing, but now a days when I see a new anime poster featuring 4 cute girls I glaze away.

    • Irina says:

      See that was my instinct as well but like any genre, there are some great ones and some less than great ones.

  2. foovay says:

    Maybe it is because I have such low expectations and I don’t participate in “the anime community” to speak of. I always take other peoples opinions and reviews with a grain of salt. So if I read a review that says this anime has CGDCT and has some positives to say about it, unless the negatives are bad artwork (you know how I am about artwork) I might give the anime a try one of these days. But I go in with no real expectations. I’ll try this and see if i like it is my default setting. I learned when I first started watching anime that I often “don’t get it” with super hyped OMG this is so great animes. In fact, sometimes I find I heartily dislike them in the first episode and drop them forever. I chalk it up to I’m a bit weird and roll on. So perhaps I am immune to this danger of positivity…I don’t get involved in the conversations, let alone arguments over anime. Doesn’t matter what fans are arguing over, if they are having a knock down drag out over it, I’m outta there. This is what I do for FUN and I don’t find arguing fun, so… and I don’t really care, either, what other people think about any given anime or aspect of it. We all have our passions, they’re all different, and it’s interesting to discuss but not worth going gaga over. In the scheme of things, it’s just not that important. Okay, this reply turned into a total ramble…

    • Irina says:

      I should do that. I mean a lot of these people are my friends so it’s not so much reviews as people directly telling me personally that I will adore a certain show….

  3. ManInBlack says:

    I had to Google that acronym – I thought it was like LGBTQ for cats and dogs or something…. 🙁

    • Irina says:

      It’s pretty well known in the anime community but it does look weird when you’re not familiar with it

      • ManInBlack says:

        Ah, well I’m not really part of the mass anime community so…

        • Irina says:

          I think I only learned it from reading my fellow blogger’s posts or the descriptions of shows I was interested in. Either that or I heard it in an actual anime. It’s the sort of thing you come across in day to day conversation.

  4. Pinkie says:

    I think everyone should have their own opinion but also realise that another opinion isn’t always true for them. I like being positive about things, there are shows and games that I love whose flaws I do not care about at all.. nor do I think I should talk much about those flaws I do not care about, just so someone else might not get over hyped. If I am am actually that hyped about a thing I should be able to express it. So I do not think the positivity is exactly the problem.

    I think the problem is that we always expect people to be AS positive as we are on things we love and we need to let that go.. or we expect to love something as much as our friends. So I’d say the problem is more with the expectation we get when confronted with positivity. Like how recently people just shat on a Pokemon Game that they know nothing about just because they selfishly expected something else. People get each other hyped up and end up dissapointed and that turns to hate.

    I think positivity is more .. contagious than negativity so we see a lot more disappointed reactions than the sole defender. For example everyone is going wild for CyberPunk 2077 but from everything I look I see a cool setting but a generic game. I fear when the game comes out people will be so hyped up and then see it’s just a mashup of GTA and Fall-Out and then will hate the game so much that it gets reviewed bombed again. While if we take a bit of a step back from our expecations it can still be a good game.. though maybe not as hot as the hype.

    As for the CGDCT genre I think it is easy to disappointed in it because of how “hollow” it is. Even if we really like one of those shows it’s mostly stuff like “OMG ITS SOOOO CUTE” … I LOVE GIRL 1 SHE is so adorable, it’s a genre that really leans heavy into relying on charm.. generaly over great story telling or animations ..it’s just.. cute stuff happening.. and that already is very subjective so when that is given a value by fans it becomes doubley subjective.

    Iridium Eye has a great way of doing reviews that actually really works well for this. He reviews based on his own review and gives a score based on his feelings he then adds a few mutators to his scores like -2 if you do not like slow stories or -1 if you do not like non emancipated females etc. As reviews it really helps you put things into content. I think the world needs reviews like Iridium eye’s , but I also think the world needs that unbridled positivity. It’s because I tell Pokémon is the best thing ever and people like me that we get new Pokémon games or heck even Yokai Watch. It’s because those people fan girling over CGDCT we keep getting new Manga or Anime .. it’s just up to us to stop ourselves from going “omg omg Pinkie loves a thing it’s gonnna be super good when I play it” and instead go “Hmm So she loved it that’s nice, let’s clean my palette and try for myself.. without expecting it’s exactly what I said”

  5. Wow..I’m amazed by how consistent you post. I wish I was this dedicated to uploading something new every day 👌

  6. I’ve felt the same way with CGDCT, and stories in general, really. Part of my modus operandi whenever I hear people talking about how this or that certain story is the “greatest thing ever” is to assume that what they really mean to say is that it’s better than average. I have had plenty of shows and, to a lesser extent, books, which were lessened in my eyes by having them overhyped by others. I would not have been as trenchant in my critiques of them if my expectations weren’t set so high beforehand. I now take most recommendations with several grains of salt.

    Most people aren’t critical of the media they consume. They know what they like, maybe a bit of what they dislike… but probably not *why* they like or dislike those things. It’s why they use such effusive language when talking about shows they like, and why they seemingly “love to hate” more controversial works. It’s all about emotion, on a visceral level: The former an embracing of those emotions, and the latter a vehement rejection. In either case, they *feel*, and do so strongly. Sounds a bit obvious now that I re-read this paragraph to myself, but hopefully I said something interesting.

    It’s why I tend to gravitate more towards shows people hate rather than those they love. I find it tells me more about them. A lot of what people recommend can be projection: Part of how they want others to perceive them. But rejection? Detest? What gets under their skin is inevitably much closer to their hearts; and that’s what I look for in a recommendation. I guess it sounds kinda creepy when I put it that way. Sorry, if so. I just feel that, in certain cases, art can sometimes serve more as a reflection of the audience member than the artist. I like that.

  7. Hi Irina, have you watched Free!?

  8. >”The Dangers of positivism”

    There’s a lot more to these kinds of dangers than being effected by sheer overhype. I’ve always been a proponent in the belief that anime fans of varying communities would rather be “ruined by praise than saved by criticism”. These are typically of the more light-hearted genres. And well I simply figured a long time ago that it just made sense because of how they work structurally; light-hearted anime have a lot less variance. A lot less design elements and even the design you’re obligated to interact with (as a designer) there’s a lot of simple ideas you can use or re-use for that matter to fill in the blanks. What do you have to do but completely reference real-life school locations and uniforms–or make whatever looks remotely realistic. Then there’s the character designing which has the same problems albeit maybe less frequently for obv. reasons.

    And then there’s writing; It may not be easy to write for a non-writer but for an actual writer… I mean any light-hearted Comedy has to seem like the most boring and safest thing to write about. There’s no challenge in the dynamics of the characters beyond a temper-tantrum a Tsundere might throw which will be prompted for no apparent reason.

    But avid fans will take these in stride and while I have a fondness for light-heartedness myself; I will never be able to understand why they do enjoy the exact brand of it I am talking about. Unfortunately because I have no way of communicating with them without their massive shields eclipsing the sun over me.

    • Irina says:

      Admittedly I am no writer but I am one of those people who enjoy a light-hearted approach and comedies. Heck Kyousougiga is one of my favourite shows! So is Natsume… I’m actually surprised to hear that this is easier as I often feel like series get bogged down in melodrama and trip over themselves or their own plots. I was under the impression that measured and subtle writing was in fact quite difficult but I honestly have no clue. All writing is difficult as far as I’m concerned….

      As for what I enjoy about it, I’m not entirely certain. Part of it may be that less intentionally and pointedly emotional writing gives more roojm for personal interpretation of a story. I find that comedy is a great vehicle to explore often uncomfortable and unpleasant ideas that I may not have the patience for in more maudlin settings. I also simply relate better with stories that have at least a touch of optimism as I tend to be an optimistic person in general.

      Since you mention temper tantrums and tsunderes though, I realize now that I may not know what light hearted comedies actually means.

      As for my specific feelings about the very common cute shows that bank on non sexual fanservice. I would say that for me, it’s like entertainment junk food. Just as it may be easy to write (again no clue, I figure anything is difficult to do really well…) but it’s also easy to take in. It’s undemanding on a tired mind at the end of the day and it’s geared to provide actual positive sentimentality which is a nice endorphin release. Like a glass of wine at the end of a long day but way better for your liver.

      I’m not sure that explained any of it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that diversion is sometimes very important and I fell often underrated. Doing something not mentally engaging from time to time is quite important if I want to keep really enjoying the engaging works. Also the character models are real cute and stuff…

  9. Dawnstorm says:

    I’m not even sure what CGDCT actually is. For example, I was surprised to see you mention Eizouken as an example of the genre, though it definitely makes sense once I think about it. But if I go down that route I eventually land at Gunslinger Girl, and there I have the feeling I’ve gone too far, or missed a sideway somehwere?

    I believe CGDCT was originally a derogatory term until fans appropriated it, but where does that leave me with “cute things”? For example, Eizouken seems to me to be more about animating stuff than about the girls, though they’re vitally important. On the other hand, the show does create a male-free environment in their club, just like all those other shows. This makes me think of Shirobako, where we have the pallette-swap girls who sort of feel like a CGDCT marketing gimmick for the show, but then the rest of the show only really focusses on one of them (with the others coming and going as the production process requires), and instead we get a really diverse set of character designs, as if we have five genre-typical marketing characters in the background (and Aoi as viewpoint character), and then the rest are the “real” cast.

    I’m generally only thinking of shows as CGDCT if the focus is on “hanging out”, rather than the thing they do. And that’s mostly highschool shows. But that’s not really the whole of the story either, because there are those shows that are about some special interest, that overlay a cute-girl aesthetic, like Saki and Mah Jong, or Girls und Panzer and tanks, and I feel they sort of count, too.

    And sort of between those poles we have the hobby shows like Yuru Camp, which are about bonding over a hobby.

    So where does that leave me with shows like Princess Principal, for example? They certainly have the aesthetic? But then what about magical girl shows? A lot of them are more shoujo oriented shows? I’m confused.

    In any case, core shows are fairly easy to identify, and I really loved the genre until around 2013, when things started to slowly go down the overly-sweet direction and lose me (I think Kiniro Mosaic was the first of those shows). I know that by 2014 I didn’t auto-expect to like these shows anymore, and from 2016 onwards we got shows that were boring me enough that I dropped them fairly quickly (Hinako Note, Slow Start…).

    This season there was only one pure CGDCT show, and that was the Breakwater show that got delayed. Princess Connect sort of has the aesthetic, but there’s a male main who’s superpower it is to power up all those other girls, so it’s also a little harem-like, but he’s more a very easy-going caricature than the usual blank-slate identifactionfodder of the harem show, so it doesn’t quite register as a harem. And in any case, it’s primarily an adventure/comedy show, so none of that really matters.

    I’m still sort of sad we never got see Hulaing Babies. The previews looked adorable, and it was really only a short anyway. I think I’d have loved that. Very free-flowing character designs.

  10. Anonymous says:

    In reality oppinons are assholes and everyone has one and there’s no point at all getting so pissed off about liking one thing or another thing. I mean i like smt and i also like persona and Radiant Historia Perfect Chronology. I’m not a fan of Disney at all but that doesn’t stop me from liking Kingdom Hearts since i’m a Final Fantasy fan.
    The part of how fandom’s glossing over rougher areas was very attention grabbing to me as i noticed this on the Persona fandom especially the 3-5 ones.
    I’m the first fan to admit that the series has become formulaic,ATLUS is going overboard to milking it just to keep the smt brand going and that the dialogue choices and confidant missions are utter trash. And yeah the writing of Persona 5 can be pretty bad and the script of the game can be really stupid and long winded.
    But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it in fact being critical about something you enjoy doesn;t make you less of a fan it makes you a more inteligent and healthy fan since you’re more open to hearing oppinons and feedback on how to improve your favorite series. Plus it ain’t worth losing friendships at all over a video game debate which is which or which is the best girl.
    Very interesting article you made and i totally agree with the points you made overall.-K Anthony (rogueotakugamer)

  11. AK says:

    When people talk up their favorite genres or shows too much, it can create an unrealistic expectation for the rest of it, so I think there’s going to be some disappointment if it doesn’t live up. I’ve seen a bit of the same thing you have with this genre. I remember it was really big back in the late 2000s and got a lot of backlash at the time for filling the anime slots up with cute girls doing cute thing relatively plotless series, sort of like isekais are treated today.

    The idea of getting so worked up over opinions about anime or any other kind of art is funny to me, but maybe I’m just too tired to care anymore. I haven’t done nearly as much anime-related writing lately as I used to, but I see the same kind of thing with video games. A lot of bitter fighting on Twitter over certain games and their qualities, especially these days.

  1. July 2, 2020

    […] The Evolution of My Views on the CGDCT Genre & The Dangers of Positivism (I drink and watch anime) — Overly enthusiastic fans can sometimes raise expectations for their favorite works a whole lot, maybe too much. In this post, Irina explores how this has affected her experience with the “cute girls doing cute things” anime genre. […]

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