Just in case it wasn’t already obvious to anyone who’s been reading along with Otaku Lounge thus far, I quite like anime. A lot. At times though, I actually feel relatively new to the fandom – it can be a little odd to realise that anime has been a major passion of mine for over a decade now, and that over that time, I’ve seen several hundred titles. I intend to see many hundreds more in the future; whether or not I’m an active blogger in two, ten, or even twenty years, I can’t really imagine a life in which anime doesn’t play an important part.
I’ll shortly be posting up a list of my top 20 anime of all time. I suspect that said list may cause some readers (hopefully none of whom I regularly converse with here on WordPress) to think of me as a snob – some of the titles on the list tend to be seen as classics by much of the fan community, while shockingly, shows such as Naruto and Bleach won’t be making an appearance.
To be clear, I genuinely believe that people should watch whatever anime makes them happy. Regardless of whether or not someone else’s tastes line up with mine, I’m not about to look down on them for liking what they like (or indeed, disliking what they dislike). That said, my top 20 anime list is no doubt reflective of how I personally approach anime – and that’s possibly quite different to how many other people choose to do so.
See, there’s a major difference (to me) between something that’s objectively good and something that’s subjectively enjoyable. To briefly clarify before anyone decides to leap to any sweeping conclusions, I’m not saying that one is inherently better than another, or that everybody has exactly the same ideas about what makes something objectively/subjectively good to begin with. All I’m saying is that I don’t believe they’re the same thing, and that I’m inclined to take both sides into account whenever I start thinking of giving an anime any kind of private ‘score’.
I can only ever definitively speak for myself when I make statements about which anime are emotionally effective, or what kind of humour works best, or what types of stories make for the most interesting or entertaining viewing. Does the plot itself intrigue me? Can I engage with the characters on any kind of personal level? Do the character designs mesh with my own ideas about what I consider appealing? Do I instinctively like the music? Does the overall story resound with me enough that I’d want to re-watch the series at some point in order to relive the experience? These are the sorts of questions that there’s no definitive answer to, and that nobody else can answer in my place. I also can’t answer any of those questions for anybody else.
What I can do, however, is make observations about animation by discussing frame rate and by how well CG is blended with hand-drawn cels. I can comment on clarity and consistency of artwork. I can talk about whether generic synthesizer music is used or whether more effort than this has gone into the soundtrack. I can go a bit deeper and discuss story as well, since despite individual opinion on what makes for a fun or gripping plot, it’s still plain enough to see when an anime suffers from copious amounts of filler, cookie-cutter characters, or a total reliance on any one given factor (for example, fanservice) to convey narrative.
Now these sorts of things might not be all that important to other viewers, and I don’t think they have to be. I’m not suggesting that the craft of anime is the be all and end all of the medium – in fact, I’d be pretty sad if that were the case. Even if I actually believed that it was possible for anyone to be 100% objective about something to begin with (which, just for the record, I don’t), I hope I’d still be saying that the pleasure I get out of watching anime isn’t limited to objectivism. An anime could be the best looking, best sounding, or most ground-breaking show in the world, but I still wouldn’t call it a favourite if I didn’t truly love it… after all, neither Kara no Kyoukai nor Revolutionary Girl Utena is going on my top 20 list any more than Bleach or Naruto is.
But the thing is, what I’d consider objectively fantastic and what I’d consider subjectively awesome do often seem to match up with me. Not all the time (clearly), but often enough that it probably comes out in my top 20 picks, despite the fact that I’ve consciously tried to rank my anime titles by subjective gratification. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not about to judge an anime based purely on its budget. An anime doesn’t necessarily have to boast fluid animation, crisp artwork, and generally high production values for me to like it… but these things certainly help, and I’m not ashamed of that, any more than I think anyone else should be ashamed if these factors don’t happen to make up a significant part of their enjoyment of anime.
Bottom line: people will of course think whatever they want about me, and if they choose to label me an elitist because of the inevitable appearance of Cowboy Bebop or Mushishi somewhere on my list, that’s their business. I guess I’d just like readers to be aware that, despite all my rambling about ‘good’ vs. ‘like’, I’m not putting Cowboy Bebop, Mushishi, or any other title on said list simply because I think of them as objectively great anime.
I’m putting them there because I love the hell out of them.