Focal Point – Thinking is not Entertaining
If you can’t tell by now, I tend to be garrulous, verbose, and rather redundant when I’m trying to make a point (probably comes with teaching, being long-winded and all that). In fact, when I first sit down to write an editorial, I typically spew out pages of material in a short amount of time, but this verbal diarrhea is messy, unorganized, rambling, and not really enjoyable to read (I already get several TLDR comments on the articles I have published so far, not that I really care about that). This article, in fact, was originally drafted as 7 pages with 0.5 margins, and I wrote it in about an hour. It has since taken me a week to cut it down to the following, which is still probably too long for a lot of you, but that’s how I write, so tough noodles.
Omni recently wrote about Code Geass R2’s low television ratings. And while I couldn’t care less what a large number of Average Joe’s and Josephina’s amassed into a mindless herd-like mob collectively think about a show I like (regardless of whether they are Japanese or American), I did start to wonder why I STILL have episodes 9 and 10 sitting unwatched on my hard drive.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love Code Geass (both the first season and the current one). With all the different genres of anime, I tend to lean towards large and epic plots with characters developing over several episodes (or dying thereafter), smartly written edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers, and a decently conclusive ending. The problem is that such shows often require a certain amount of intelligence and brain power to fully understand and enjoy them.
Before we descend into the immaturity that is calling someone too stupid to appreciate a show, let’s just acknowledge the fact that NOBODY is always capable of processing mentally intensive information ALL the time. I am sure you have found yourself at one point sleep-deprived, maybe from marathoning an entire 26-episode classic anime series your friends have been bugging you to watch, such that even though the latest episode of Code Geass R2 (or whatever plot-intensive anime you recently watch) came out, you just can’t quite find the energy to A) stay awake while trying to watch it or B) fully appreciate and enjoy it, so you opt to watch it with a fresh mind after some sleep.
Thus, it’s not hard to extrapolate the same reasoning for someone who is dead tired after a long day of work. Let’s say you woke up at 5AM, scrambled to put together a lecture and an experiment before your class started, yelled at some unruly students during class, dealt with some students who were complaining about their grades after class, met with some parents of some bad students to discuss ways to resolve the problems, attended a boring after-school faculty meeting where the principal went on and on about teamwork, graded 125 pages of homework, fought rush-hour traffic to get home, and (after dinner) decided to try to relax and unwind by watching some anime. You have your choice of the intellectually-stimulating-yet-mentally-exhaustive Real Drive or the refreshingly-cute-eye-candy-with-a-plot-thiner-than-Kate-Moss To LOVE-Ru. Me? (considering who the hypothetical situation described above is most directly applicable to) I’d go with To LOVE-Ru. And it’s not that difficult to change the job scenario to something that is more applicable to your situation; you could even make it a school scenario with Final Exams time.
ON THE SOAPBOX (even more so than normal)
Oh, but if you’re the type of student who pours all their mental energy into watching and enjoying such intellectually stimulating shows such that you have so little brain power left to finish an assignment or do a test well (if at all), then you have no right to complain if you get a grader lower than what you wanted. The same applies to an employee who doesn’t do their job right and gets berated by their boss, gets their paycheck cut, or gets fired – you don’t have a right to complain if you don’t put sincere effort into your work. I find it ridiculous that there are FANS who frequently stay up all night watching anime, such that they are regularly late for work, and, as a result, lose their job (and then have the audacity to complain about it).
OFF THE SOAPBOX
This is what happens when you watch anime (or play eroge) all night long…
So, all we have to do now is take the argument further and apply it to people who don’t want to HAVE to think when they are being entertained. My wife is a good example of this. While neither of us would call her an anime fan whatsoever, she did enjoy watching CardCaptorSakura, Angelic Layer, Kare Kano, and Fruits Basket (so much so that she had me buy the DVDs for her), and she does help me make cosplay, as her sewing skills far exceed mine (I mostly make props). But when I showed her Neon Genesis Evangelion, I think she made it through 2 DVDs, before she called it quits.
Me: But we’re getting to the good parts. Just give it one more DVD.
Wife: No, it’s too confusing. I don’t get it. What are the angels exactly? And why aren’t they pretty with white feather wings?
Me: Well, we don’t really know – it’s kinda left up to interpretation, but they symbolize-
Wife: And who’s the bad guy? Is it NERV? Is it Shinji’s dad? And what’s this about SEELE?
Me: Well, you’ll find out about it later, but that’s part of the intrigue of the conspiracy in the st-
Wife: Half the time I can’t tell what they’re talking about, because there’s no context!
Me: You just have to take in the scene and remember it for later. It comes into play later.
Wife: That’s too much work.
Me: All you have to do is think.
Wife: I don’t want to think. I want to be entertained.
When a show becomes so “intellectually driven” that it exceeds the viewer’s desire to output that much mental effort, then watching it becomes work and not fun, just like trying to give every single character in Final Fantasy VII their own set of every single type of Master Materia or trying to get a triple star rating on all the courses and in all the different difficulties in Mario Kart Wii (yes, I’m still WORKING on both of those). In terms of why I haven’t watched the latest episodes of Code Geass R2, I find myself feeling the need to go and watch the previous episode, especially because we had a week without Code Geass. With each episode being so heavy and full of plot (with possible exception to the occasional school episode), there was just so much information to remember that I sometimes need a refresher (which is why I often rely on episodic summaries, like Omni’s, to help me out).
I’m not ashamed to admit that I fell off the Da Capo train after a few episodes in the first season of the first Da Capo, and now, there’s no way I can get back on it for the second season of the second iteration…
This also explains why it’s so hard to get people interested in a show with a complex plot that requires a lot of thinking to sort through, ESPECIALLY if the show is already running. I’m sure you’ve experienced this feeling if you’ve tried to get people to watch (or you’ve tried to watch yourself) 24, Lost, or Heroes after the first few episodes (or seasons) have already aired. The same would apply to a series like Code Geass R2, which has an entire first season as necessary background to know. And so, the show loses ratings by possibly alienating new fans from starting to enjoy the show, as well as potentially temporarily losing old fans who are too tired from work or whatever to watch it.
But you know what? There’s really nothing wrong with that.
The problems occur when people get arrogant or in-your-face about their preference in entertainment (this part of the editorial is dedicated to long-time readers of Random Curiosity; they SHOULD be able to figure out what “drama” I’m touching upon here, but I’m going to behave and not make a link to the incident).
It’s easy to see how someone who enjoys the thought-provoking shows finds people who cannot enjoy them to be of less intelligence. It’s just not very nice to view such people in that way, much less say it to their face. Reviewers, critics, and even bloggers have to tread the fine line of showcasing their opinion without necessarily insulting their readers…unless it’s funny or entertaining, which (I must say with false smugness) I am a master of. Saying, “The plot is so predictable, there is hardly any plot at all,” is different from, “The plot, such as it is, is complete trash and drivel,” which is ALSO different from, “Anyone who enjoys the plot and thinks it’s captivating must ride the short bus.”
It goes both ways, though. Fans of slice-of-life shows or there-for-eye-candy shows need to not be so critical of or, more accurately, rude to those who enjoy the intellectual shows. Interestingly enough, these types of FANS do not tend to be snobby about their preference, but rather, as a reflection of their tastes, they tend to be annoying as they revel over their shows, inundating their posts and comments with frat boy-like cat calls, which for anime and the internet typically results in comments like “pwned” and “desu desu desu.” “Pull the Pocky stick out of your ass and lemme enjoy whats I likes,” is different from, “Those kind of thinking shows are boring,” which is different from, “You like what you like, and I like what I like. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Everyone has their own voice and tolerance levels of criticism, so the best solution would be to present one’s opinion fairly and in a balanced fashion. And in my opinion, both sides need to every now and then taste a sampling of the genre they have decided is not really for them. You cannot criticize something you haven’t even tried out, and while genres help us classify a type of show, really good shows blur those boundaries, such that even if it looks like a type of show you wouldn’t normally like, you might just end up surprised. Isn’t trying new things better than pigeon-holing yourself up in a box of safety and ignorance? After all, this lack of fear to remain constrained by what is canon allows us to ship characters we’d LIKE to see together, even if they will never become romantically involved in the actual story.
But, fine, you don’t want me preaching to you on what anime you should like (which I’m not), how you should be open-minded to try all sorts of shows (which I am), or how you should voice your opinion fairly and receive other’s opinions nicely about shows (which is rather ironic, considering that this is an editorial – and I can already see the comments that are going to call my a hypocrite…). So, as an editorial, let me just leave you with how I personally classify and prioritize shows, based on my tastes and lifestyle:
These are shows that I need to sit down and concentrate on when watching. They need my full and undivided attention, because they’re like bratty little buggers who will throw a hissy fit if I’m not paying attention, and by hissy fit, I mean the story will convolute in such a way that I am left bewildered as to where the plot is, where it was, and where it’s going. Often, though, ESPECIALLY in the case of good shows, whatever they’re doing is awesome enough that my attention is regularly glued to them. However, it can still be difficult to give them the attention they need on little sleep or energy, so I must prepare for them like I would prepare to go to the movies or, perhaps, how I would prepare to take a test. Examples: Code Geass, Real Drive, Ghost in the Shell.
These are shows that I can watch while eating, and sometimes while grading something simple like multiple choice tests. They’re like a good kid who you can leave to their own devices, because you know they won’t do something stupid like stick a fork in an electric outlet, but every now and then they do something cool, such that your attention is naturally drawn to them. And since I have taken courses in Japanese at the university level, these types of shows often have fairly simple dialogue without too many complex words or technical jargon, thus allowing me to understand what is going on even without reading subtitles 100% of the time. Examples: Kanokon, Kamen no Maid Guy, Shugo Chara.
These are shows I can “watch” (more accurately, listen to) while plucking my pubic hair (not that I really pluck my pubic hair, but that sounds funnier than “these are shows where I simply turn up the volume and listen to while cleaning up the house”). They’re like a bed-ridden senior citizen, who you know you should probably keep watch over, but all they do is lie there and lie there, and you simply have better things to do with your time. Sure, sometimes, they’ll make a loud, elongated grunting noise beckoning you for something, and so you come over and give them attention, but after some time, they go back to sleep or their blank stare of the ceiling, and you can go about your business. For such shows, pretty much any action scene requires you to stop what you’re doing and watch them, although some of them are horribly prolonged with unnecessary internal monologues. Examples: Naruto, DragonBallZ, Super Sentai (Power Ranger) Shows
Regardless of my labeling of whatever genres or shows you particularly like (which may illicit some hateful comments or cries of hypocrisy), the point is that I pretty much sample ALL types of shows (including J-Dramas and kiddy shows), and watch them according to what mood and/or state of alertness I am in. Can you say the same?
who was so very sad that a couple of students stopped watching Gurren Lagann in the high school anime club because they lost interest (especially once Yoko’s breasts stop being a visual gag after the first few episodes)…