I’ve already talked in length about what I find to be some of the worst aspects about the anime community as a whole(here). One topic that I decided not to talk about then, and to rather dedicate an entire post would be the words/terms used in the community. I’m specifically talking about either words used by people attempting to sound more educated or superior when describing an anime, or words used to push an individual’s narrative.
I’ve decide to name off a few to get the ball rolling, and then I will tackle each word individually to explain my disdain for its use in the community. The most common ones I’ve heard used are: “Classic”, “Deep”, “Mature”, “Deconstruction”, “Objectivity” and lastly the phrase “it gets better”. Now many people have handled some of these words and how the anime community misuses them. From Digibro talking about “it gets better” (here) to Under the Scope Reviews handling “deconstruction“. I think that the anime community stands a great deal higher if people understood these words, and the correct sense to use them.
Now lets start with the OG of them all “classic”, the term is thrown around a lot recently. From anime that are still airing being dubbed as “instant-classics” to old anime from the 80s or 90s being called classics just because they are old. I believe that the anime community still has a long way to go before they decide to let go of this phrase. Classic is a term used to judge works of superior quality over a period, the essence of the word classic is something that still has the same impact now as it did when it first came out. If you’re looking for equivalents in other mediums look at Citizen Kane in terms of cinema, The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest, Thriller by Michael Jackson or Nevermind by Nirvana. Classic was a term used upon revision of something, since a classic is only judged after a reasonable period of time has passed it can them only be given to art that has aged.
Now I think the biggest problem with how the word has been used in anime is with the term of “instant classic”. The term of instant classic is contributing to a bigger effect in the anime community of “hype”. But to focus on only aspect of instant classic is that it is incorrect as it goes against the definition of “classic”. As classic directly realizes on time being passed, the term instant classic cannot exist as no time has passed at all. I’ve found a lot of people in the community are quick to give the title of classic to any popular anime that season, or any anime that seems to be above the rest airing in that season. This is an incorrect use of the word, this overuse diminishes the value of the word as now it does not represent what it use to.
Most people are overtaken by hype and how captivating the anime seems at the moment when giving the title of classic without correctly evaluating the anime in its entirety. An anime at episode 8 is completely different to when it’s at episode 18, many anime series have gone downhill in their latter half or have drastically improved as they’ve goes on. This is why it’s critical to only rate a series once it has finished airing, because now you can assess it in its entirety from start to end, as not to rate it on half-truths or speculations of how it will end. A lot of anime need breathing room so that the viewer(s) can accurately judge their quality. I think people make up their mind on anime too quickly without letting them reflect on the anime, I think this is when this term of classic is thrown out there.
Now sure, someone can bring the argument of “What about long-running series like One Piece?”, with that I say those are the exceptions because there is no end in sight. With series like OP or any other long running series they are mostly divided into arc-based narratives with an arc having a beginning, middle and end spanning around 10-30 episodes each. This makes evaluating them easier as they can be judged on a per arc basis, as the arc contains most of the typical story telling traits.
Now with that done onto the second use of the word, when classic is being thrown out in description to all anime made in the 80s or 90s. The elitists of the community have the same problem as the seasonal viewers that use instant classic; with elitists the word classic means “old anime that will make me seem smart to others”. Yes classic as said before needs to be given after a period of time has passed, but that does not mean just because something is old it is good. I’m of the belief that new anime is better than old anime; YES! shocking isn’t it. The decade that brought us Cowboy Bebop; NGE; Trigun and Serial Experiments Lain is inferior to the decade that moe magical girl anime trash like Madoka Magica or Precure, and the KyoAni moe slice-of-life, girls doing nothing anime like K-On.
I think a lot of the veterans of the anime community have a considerable bias when talking about periods in anime. I think because of how unavailable anime was in the 80s and 90s the series than many people got introduced to anime with at that time were some of Japans best. Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell or any of the Gundam anime along with others were the best of the best, and that is the reason why the west got them. The anime that most of the veterans first got exposed to were the cream of the crope at the time, whilst nowadays with streaming services such as Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hulu getting almost every anime airing in Japan within a couple of hours of it airing there in Japan, people are now more exposed to all that anime is. On top to the fact that more anime is being produced now more than ever as the number of anime airing per season has almost double in the past 10 years, all of these facets blinds people to the difference in anime and the industry producing it between the 90s and the 2010s.
Now with this being said I think because most veterans got their first exposure to anime in this period they often disregard everything of poor quality that aired during that time, but constantly comment of the poor quality of anime coming out now. I think the debate of “The Golden Age” in anime will never end, as it is the same as “What is the best anime ever” or “The best anime studio” it always boils down to opinion. Where I do find a problem however is when just because anime such as NGE or Lain came out during the 90s everything in that period is suddenly god-tier status in some people’s minds. I think this belief is as misguided as the seasonal hype man labelling everything coming out as a classic. I think a lot of anime get praised just because they are old and not because they are actually deserving on that praise(entirely subjective though). I think the term “classic” has become synonyms with “old” for most of these people, yes I do think time has to be taken into consideration for labelling something as a classic, but the first definition of it actually being great work should be met first before considering time since it aired.
Well since I’m already talking about opinion and subjectivity, I might as well handle an issue that I didn’t know existed until recently: “Objectivity” in relation to art. I was under the misconception that everyone fully understood the definition of the word and how it relates to anime and all art in general. But just incase some are unclear.
(of a person or their judgement) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
And art by definition means
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
As you can see that these words cannot relate to each other, by art being about emotional power, and objectivity being about the exclusion of personal feelings(emotions) it is clear that these two topics cannot be used in conjunction with each other. What I have recently discovered is people thinking that an art form such as anime can be viewed objectively as if someone can say “If you look at it objectively, anime A is superior to anime B”. This notion is wrong as every art form or artistic medium is different to everyone viewing/experiencing it as it is subjective and based on your own personal experiences.
For example if someone has grown up loving robots and mecha anime, and prefers traditional mecha such as entries in the Gundam franchise, they might not like Neon Genesis Evangelion as it flips the typical conventions of what mecha anime is. This means that this person might not fully love NGE since they like typical mecha anime not a deconstruction of mecha. They cannot just “remove their bias” from reviewing it as they have grown up with their bias, and it isn’t a switch that can be turned off or on.
Their individual bias is deeply rooted in them and with everyone, you like what you like and dislike what you don’t like that is just the way of life. Objectivity revolves around provable facts, it can be linked to science or math where something can be proven. But art is different in the way that there are no facts only opinions, I have talked about this somewhat in my post about review scores(here). I have talked about aspects such as animation and sound in anime before but even those aren’t completely objective; some aspects of each can be viewed objectively such as accurate sound design or bad sound in general, but a Yoko Kanno soundtrack is not objectivity worse than one by Yuki Kajiura soundtrack and vice versa. In animation bad animation can clearly be seen by lack of detail or missing shots in between, that being said when deciding which series has better animation between: Mob Psycho100 and One Punch Animation it is completely subjective.
Saying that “anime A is objectively better than anime B” is about the same as saying “the colour red is objectively better than the colour blue” now doesn’t that not make much sense. If one person says “In my opinion America is the dumbest country in the world” that is no longer an opinion as they are relating it as fact which can be proven incorrect by looking at world education statistics, but saying “I think anime A is the best anime ever” that is entirely opinion based and subjective to them and therefore it is correct to them as you cannot prove to them that their anime is not their best anime.
Now lets move on to “mature” anime, in simple terms it is anime regarded for an adult crowd or anime considered to have reached the most advanced stage. This word along with “Deep” have been heavily used in anime since I started watching anime regularly. Digibro has already covered deep(here), I think he accurately covered the word as “what really is deep?”. But I think what he missed out is not really if anything is deep? But really why is deep used as such a strong description. “Mature”, “deep” and by extent “deconstruction” does not tell anyone about the value of the anime but people still use it to explain quality. Saying something is deep just means it explores some topics further than most anime, but does not tell the viewer if these topics are explored well, horribly or just enough but nothing really special.
Deconstruction for example is a description that can be used accurately for both Madoka Magica as well as School Days. The former is one of my favourite anime being that it is currently in my Top 10, and the latter is the anime that currently hold the number 1 position of worst anime I’ve ever seen. That should already tell you that the word deconstruction is meaningless in describing somethings quality, deconstruction should merely be used as a tool of story telling.
For example time skips are one of my favourite tools used in anime if they are used well, but no one uses that in reviewing a series; no one says “Nagi no Asukara should be watched because it has a time skip in it” as that does not tell the reader/viewer anything about the quality of the series as a whole. “Deconstruction” should be viewed in the same vein as “time skip” or “episodic series”, it should deter those who are only looking for the genre in the traditional sense but it should not add-on any preconceived notions of quality based on the word solely.
“Mature” should be treated the same as “deconstruction”, because mature also tells the reader nothing of the series quality like deconstruction. Just because an anime is designed to appeal to an older audience it does not mean that it will be good, for example Mirai Nikki or Pupa have mature themes of rape and death etc. but these aren’t good shows (in my opinion) but rather just have mature themes. I view mature the same way I view shōnen, I know its intended audience but that does not mean it can only be enjoyed by that audience or that just because it has these titles it is automatically good or bad.
And lastly, the phrase that has brought up Madoka Magica probably more than deconstruction, the term: “it gets better”. This phrase has just evolved to people using it to get someone (probably an anime YouTuber) to not drop their favourite anime or at least pick it back up. The phrase “it gets better” is misleading as the examples mostly used when this phrase being is used is: Steins;Gate, Madoka Magica, HunterxHunter(2011) [coincidentally all three of these premiered in the same year]. Digibro has already gone in-depth about how Steins;Gate has a different start that isn’t necessary bad but just weird (here), and what most people forget is that Madoka Magica actually begins at the end and rewind’s back to the start. Madoka Magica is slow in the same way Neon Genesis Evangelion is slow, since they both deconstruct their respective genres, a bulk of the beginning is used to explain the genre so as that the latter part can flip the conventions of the genre; HunterxHunter doesn’t have an excuse as the start is so slow for at least 10 episodes.
The main point is that by using these example among the huge amount of anime being made, the excuse of “it gets better” is an exception at best and practically non-existent as worst. If we say about 10 anime can be collectively agreed upon to be said they get considerable better as they go on, they would occupy about 0.09 of all anime made, that statistic is so small that the excuse of “it gets better” shouldn’t even be used as that is statistically unlikely. Although I have said that people are too quick to drop series(here) over a slow start as I have referenced anime such as Madoka, Steins;Gate and HxH I do think that if someone is not enjoying the anime that much they have every right to stop watching it. Anime like any other art form is for the purpose of enjoyment as if someone is not enjoying it they should stop watching it as it isn’t for them. I do think people should be more lenient with anime and not just use the “3 episode drop rule” for everything, but realistically I still think that most anime don’t get considerable better to the point where if someone dropped it they would want to pick it back up.
When saying “it gets better”, it should mean the anime should jump a considerable amount in quality to how it started. For example comparing the first couple of episodes in HxH where Gon is on the boat and hasn’t started the Hunter Exams to The Chimera Ants or Yorknew City arc. That jump in quality should always be kept in mind when saying “it gets better” and not talking about how Re:Zero first 3 episodes are to episodes later on such as episode 15. I would say although Re:Zero does get better in comparison from episode 3 to 15, it does not jump enough in quality to get someone who already dropped the anime at episode 3 to continue through 12 more episodes just to see how great episode 15 is. Whereas I would say getting passed the Hunter Exam arc is worth it considering the jump in quality when getting to The Phantom Troupe arc. If someone has dropped HxH during the middle of The Yorknew City arc I would not say “it gets better” as the difference although separated by almost 100 episodes between The Yorknew City arc and The Chimera Ants arc is not that notable to get someone back into it.
Well that’s all I have in me right now, I chose to use only these terms for this so that it does not become too long as well as I think these are the most relevant words right now. This is however from my perspective and how I currently see these words in use the most, I could be wrong or just looking at a vocal minority over the majority. Therefore like my post about the amine community’s toxicity this is not of everyone in the community but rather some that I’ve experienced the most, when I use the words “anime community” I do not mean everyone in the community but rather just some part of it. I might someday continue this with another entry, if I feel a lot of new words are being used in the same vein as these ones, but for now these 6 terms are all I’ve got.
And with all that being said I leave you with this…