Man, I hope this doesn’t make people angry. Let me start by explaining what I mean by the title Should Anime be Judged by Different Standards. The first question is probably different from what, and to that, I say from the rest of entertainment, i.e shows and movies.
You may be wondering what brought this on and I’ll try to explain by putting you in context. There was a bit of a hoopla in the community regarding a professional critics review of anime it raised the question of whether professional reviewers should be intimately acquainted with the medium of anime before being “allowed” to review it. At least in a professional context.
This isn’t a new debate and most people tend to say, why yes, of course, someone should be familiar with what they are reviewing before they can do so. And on the surface, I tend to agree. But when I really think about it, why would I agree.
If this is a professional reviewer who is familiar with media and film then what difference does it make in how many anime they have seen. A show is either good or bad and it doesn’t really matter that much if it’s animated, live-action or where it was produced. does it? I guess it’s good to have some knowledge of the production side if you ate going to discuss the technical aspects in detail but that’s not what was at issue here. And it rarely is.
it’s something that’s way more pronounced with anime than any other area of filmmaking. For instance, I know a bit about both Swedish and Spanish filmmaking. They are very different from one another and they both have deep and long histories and cinematic traditions that still strongly influence the cinema made today. From the general tone to the themes explored right down to the choices of colour palette, I can usually tell within a few minutes if a movie or series was made in either Spain or Sweden. I also read a lot of reviews of those movies and use to be quite involved in the international cinema community.
I’m saying all this because I almost never saw a fan base dismissing a critique because they hadn’t watched enough Swedish cinema to review Jan Troell or something. It’s just an argument that doesn’t really come up. Fans will call the critics hacks or decide they entirely missed the point of a movie but it’s not based on niche experience.
It is however a point that I see all the time in the anime community. And the only reason I can see why it would matter is if anime had a different set of rules. In that case, a critic would need to be familiar with those rules in order to critic it. Again, I’m not even sure I completely agree with that but I do see the logic in it. Hence the question, should anime be critiqued by different standards?
I already know that a vocal part of the community believes the answer to that question to be: YES. I know that because I see various criticisms of anime get answered with “that’s typical or anime and you wouldn’t bring up that criticism if you knew that” or less polite variations of that argument. As if the fact that something has existed for some time invalidates any less than fully positive assessment anyone can make.
Personally, I think not ever questioning anything simply because it has existed for a while is not the best way to grow. But it still begs the question of whether anime should have a special category and I don’t know the answer. Or rather I’m completely split between yes and no.
There are a variety of little reasons that are preventing me from clearly falling on one side of the issue or the other but for now, let me give you my two big ones.
NO – Anime should be judged in the same way as all other movies and shows
My biggest reason for thinking that anime should not be separated from other media when it comes to criticism is a fear that if it is, it will stagnate. If the fans never ask for anything different or new from anime because it is what it is, then it runs the risk of just becoming a homogeneous pool of the same old thing over and over again.
Despite what some fans may think, anime has evolved drastically over the years and it’s at least on some level because it has had to compete with international influence both for the viewership of Japanese audiences and for the lucrative overseas market. And that has been invigorating for the medium.
I think the same applies to criticism. If anime is only judged by a very specific set of expectations that are singular to the medium and never get updated, it won’t get challenged. There will be no reasons to push or improve anything. I’m exaggerating but I think you can see my point.
Criticism is supposed to be a boon to the industry. It helps it as it is a form of publicity but it can also open creators up to possibilities they may not have otherwise thought of. It’s a symbiotic relationship and in any ecosystem, variety is the key to not only surviving but thriving.
YES – Anime should have it’s on rules
But let’s face it anime is different. It has to be, doesn’t it? Otherwise, why do I find most other forms of entertainment so boring? There is something in anime that isn’t captured in other media and without understanding that, a critique will likely miss a lot of the magic of the medium altogether. And this runs the risk of turning away tons of potential fans through misrepresentation.
I also made a point above that critics can influence creators. This is becoming less and less true in the age of social media where everyone has a voice. Still, in conservative Japan, I bet official reviewer voices are way louder than anyone else’s. So it stands to reason that these critics that represent the audience should represent the fans. And the only way to properly represent the fans is to be a fan. Right?
After all, just because something is an issue in one society or within one context doesn’t mean it has to be the priority across the board.
Both are good arguments, right? At least they both sound reasonable to me. And as such, I’m just not sure where I stand. I think I tend to believe that a good anime will be good no matter how many animes the viewer has watched. Also, criticism and reviews both have many subjective elements that will change from person to person so in the end there’s no way to ever really make sure people fall into a precise category.
But I would also hate to see anime dismissed simply because it’s different and unfamiliar.
And so here we are. Not sure where to stand. Do you have a stance on this issue or are you in the middle like me? And if you do have an opinion, why do you think or feel that way?