In the past, I covered several topics relating to criticism such as what Anime is good and what is bad. Now, I want to focus more thoughts on criticism of Anime or media in general as I only touch upon how I reviewed things. I understand that people will have different options, thus a well-balanced or objective one can be difficult to achieve for various reasons.
When it comes to criticism, it’s always going to be based on one’s feelings towards a series and his/her tastes. Because of this, I think it’s either difficult or even impossible to make an objective criticism towards a series because personal options and tastes will get in the way. For example, there is a difference between “good character developments” and “too much fanservice” as the former is based more on what the story presented rather than on personal tastes or opinion. While it’s not wrong to do the latter, at the same time, people might not view it as a thought-out criticism, but more towards nitpicking or based on personal tastes.
On the other hand, I realized that in most Anime criticism, we tend to focus too much on the story (or any other aspect), but don’t look at the overall picture. Frog-kun points out in his recent editorial that people tend to focus more on the story and shove the production values (animation, music, voice acting) into the background. I think this is problem since Anime is a visual medium and if you leave a certain aspect out, you won’t have the whole package. To me, I think music and animation plays a big part in the story as it sets the mood of the story, more so with the latter. For instance, anything from Key is a good example of this as they use music to bring emotion to a dramatic or funny scene. This is why studios like PA Works and Kyoto Animation pump a lot of money to their budgets in order to make their settings look beautiful, make the characters look present to look at and make their music sound great. They do this to immerse the viewer into the story and give a sense of realism and emotions. So, what if PA Works slacked off and made the Sea Village in Nagi no Asukara look less colorful and dull? I think this show will lose a lot of feeling and immersion aspect to the story.
Furthermore, I think the lack of knowledge of a culture and biases towards it also plays a part in criticism that is not necessarily well thought out. Believe it or not, unless you are lived in Japan for a long time and/or fully understand their culture/language, most of us will have a limited knowledge. Like most Asian cultures, Japanese culture/values are complex and like any other country, it pours into their popular media. Because of that reason, some critics tend to criticize these stories harshly as they don’t understand or agree with their values. While this sentiment can be seen in the Anime Fandom in the west, I feel that is seen more so for video games as western reviewers tend to be biased against Japanese games. This can range from not having realistic graphics, being sexist to women because female characters have big breasts, fanservice, pondering to an Otaku, etc, but praise western games and give them good or perfect scores even if they are rehashes of previous games. A good example of this is any of the reviews from the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise as western critics usually rate the game poorly (only a 2.5/10) for the fact that it doesn’t match the westerner’s tastes and values even though actual people who played the game enjoyed it. People don’t realize that a lot of video games in Japan target a specific niche audience (especially an Otaku) and that Anime mostly influences their video games. This is why most niche Japanese games do poorly on the western critic’s eyes because most don’t watch Anime. Even so, I think people need to have an open mind and not judge things so quickly because it’s different, but embrace it. There is always a possibility that one can enjoy it.
As a whole, there is no right or wrong way to criticize a show since people are going to have different feelings towards a certain piece of media no matter what. This is also why it’s very difficult to make a completely objective criticism because there might be some personal feelings/opinions. However, we can’t ignore the fact that there are other parts such as animation, music and even the voice actors/actresses that play a big part in telling the story in Anime. Not only that, viewers need to have a more open view and don’t let the lack of understanding for a different culture to bother them. Even if everyone reviewed every aspect and have a more open mind, no matter how bad or good a show is, it can show what kind of critic he/she is.
With that, what is your feelings towards criticism of any media? Do you think that critics need to have a more open view when they are reviewing a foreign piece of media? Also, do you also pay attention to production values when you review a piece of Anime?