Adjusting Expectations Against Impressions, or Rape as Plot Device

Over the years I’ve been getting better and setting expectations that are realistic and are often met, when it comes to trying out new anime. Sad to say, often this means “lowering” the expectations against hype. The good news is that there are still shows on a regular basis that meets some of my expectations, or even exceeds.

Also, over time my goals with regards to expectations have slightly shifted. These days my primary goal in having any expectations at all is to increase the enjoyment of a particular encounter with a new show. Realistically speaking it just isn’t any fun to be pessimistic.

There may be other things in play in my case in which helps me adjust expectations, such as my tendency to not be familiar with the source material unless it’s that once-a-blue-moon light novel that I’ve read ahead of time. I think I can handle adaptations from books; Hollywood has prepared me well. I can’t say much about manga or, good luck, video games. Well, I guess I do read a handful of manga, but in the past half a decade or so, there were probably only one or two manga that I’ve read before I saw the anime of, like Bakuman. The end result, for that Bakuman adaptation, is that “the manga is just what you need to read.” And I think watching the anime about a couple’s promise to get the man’s manga adopted into an anime so the woman can voice act for it is way too meta. Reading the manga? Just right. More pertiently, I put my anime in one bin, and the manga in the other. I am just not a manga person, I guess.

I think there are also reasons to believe adaptations are better off judged on its on merit for more accurate adjustments on expectations. The reasons can come in a variety of ways, from being totally unfaithful to source material, to source material being unhelpful to predict the end result, to the fact that it can completely overshadow the adaptation. Of course if you are coming to an adaptation for the reasons that it is connected to the source material, none of what I said makes would make any sense. But in that case you are basically a fish in a barrel and don’t have much of a choice, right?

The other notable thing, which we have a great example of this season, is targeted marketing and why they are targeted. I think it’s easy to get hyped up on a show like Star Driver, because it’s got your typical alternative-mecha vibe all over a mainstream sort of package. It’s a Sunday morning cartoon from BONES. The only thing better would be if it was from SUNRISE. Or is a GUNDAM anime. (Or, for that matter, Sket Dance.) But that is hype for everybody. On the other hand, while most people won’t give two-poops about PA Work’s 10th Anniversary project Hanasaku Iroha, it has just the right amount of hype for just the right kind of people that it is rather highly anticipated from certain circles (namely: emofag-sakuga types, like me). It makes a noise of a drop of a pin outside of those circles (well, it is a SU FEE AH animu, so you’ve got that factor). Despite its stellar pilot episode, I don’t think anyone who didn’t care about the show before would care about it until they were told to go watch it. But it was exactly how targeted hype can make a positive impact on expectation for someone like myself.

Hype can also be a negative indicator for setting expectations. Like the Persona 4 anime that just got announced. Because, well, there’s this thing called a track record. But more importantly, the hype is basically purely from the fact that Persona 4 is well-liked. There is little in terms of the animation production itself that is worth being excited over about. Usually this is a tell-tale sign of suckage.

The real question is, would it be worse than SofuTeni, to put it in perspective of the very present? I think most people do not get Sofuteni enough to be a good judge, so let’s just leave it out there: it’s a softcore…show, as you should expect. So it shouldn’t be surprising to see the content being as is. I mean, there are good reasons why people prefer hardcore over softcore as a matter of principle, after all, and I don’t just mean pornography. But some people don’t have that preference.

I think this season has been a good example (or in other words, challenging to assess realistic expectations) of a variety of things that can go wrong in guessing how a show would be before it airs. Another example would be shows like Tiger & Bunny. Who knew what it was? And maybe, who knows what it is? I think it is a huge mystery, and it isn’t even a very mysterious show. Much like the still-anticipated Madoka anime, part of what makes it charming is the whole mystery behind it. It’s another reason to be cautious about your expectations.

In the more bizarre, circumstantial sense, you get shows like 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku where it could be very enjoyable…if it was not censored all to hell. Maybe it is reason to pick up the source material, or better yet, the eventual uncensored home video release. But there’s not much to fight against arbitrary censoring. I mean I knew it would be censored, but not to this extent. So that’s a downer example: the stars aligned but it was censored.

I guess I’m ruined by Qwaser’s AT-X/web release.

To steer away from porn (again), my expectations were pretty spot on for A-channel and Nichijou. The latter was especially true-to-notion and KyoAni’s brand of humor. I find myself surprised slightly by just how much I was wishing Nichijou to be Lucky Star’s stead, and Lucky Star to never have existed. A-Channel was also surprising in that it is weird in a hard-to-describe way, which made it remarkable [albeit not much else]. It’s hard to be disappointed by weird Japanese 4-koma anime adaptation if you were expecting them. I mean, why wouldn’t anyone be expecting that, right? [I think I shed a single tear when I saw Studio Gokumi’s name showed up somewhere, but that’s beside the point.]

Or for that matter, Sengoku Otome. I guess I’m not quite done with porn yet, but maybe I can take this opportunity to revisit Samurai Girls, as it did that porn thing much better, with more pizzaz. Even in Rio’s case, they really were pretty creative with some of those battles. Perhaps it’s just an example of “you win some, you lose some,” as Time Paradox Battle Maids of WTF (which would be a superior title) was somewhat of a disappointment. I’m not sure if it is a cultural bias, but plot with your fanservice anime? I don’t really need it, but there is a tendency for those with it to do better than those without. Too bad it’s hard to tell if there will be a plot or not in that kind of stuff, ahead of time. Especially when it sacrifices the actual selling point of the shows for the plot points.

That, and among other reasons, is why I recommend having little to no expectations at all before going into a new season of anime. I realize it’s not a practical solution for everyone–instead spending the 5 minutes or whatever it takes to read some first-impression post or a teaser fag-chart, or even the 2 minutes it takes to see a trailer, it’s probably more effective to just watch the damn thing. No expectations, besides the absolutely necessary (genre, target audience, format, notable creators involved). It would have salvaged your 20+ minutes if you watched OreTsuba (and waste another 12 episodes worth of your life trying to follow it this season), and you could have looked up what it was after you saw the first episode (like any sane person should, should the show interests him). Just do it before the rape cliffhanger, for the love of all things good.

I mean it’s beyond the language barrier even. Not to mention most of us don’t scrub clean of Japanese-language sites that speculate on this stuff and get our Japanese brethren’s consensus first, but even then stuff like censorship can still screw with you. It’s tough.

No Responses to “Adjusting Expectations Against Impressions, or Rape as Plot Device”

  • Kurogane

    That’s why i’ve never really made season “teaser” posts. No point just speculating based on trailers and shit.

    The only time I know what shows are airing for a particular season now is when I check or syoboi for the tv listings in Japan.

  • ToastCrust

    Yeah, I’m definitely a fan of the “just watch it” credo.

    My project this year takes it to its logical maximum (and honestly, is excessive) but it’s kind of refreshing to just set my biases aside and let a show assail me, almost blind (like, how I managed to completely keep what Tiger & Bunny is, secret from myself. I only knew its title, so I went in thinking it’d be like Panty & Stocking or Marie & Gali–y’know, a permutation of one of the X & Y shows. Boy, was I surprised–pleasantly–when I realized I was totally off).

    On the mention of SofuTeni, I must admit, all it really did for me was remind me how much I wish there were more shows like Bamboo Blade.

    The only thing I generally look up trailers and such for are sequels I’m looking forward to. And even then, I was almost successful in watching Darker than Black S2 without knowing it started in Siberia. >_>

  • NegativeZero

    I tend to read previews months in advance to see what’s coming, and then proceed to try the first episode of just about everything since the shows I end up anticipating all turn out to suck and the ones I like are usually ones I wasn’t expecting to enjoy at all.

    I think the worst thing about manga adaptions is the people that already read the manga and already know what’s going to happen and sort of smugly lord it over the people who don’t. Though to be fair, at least half of the time there’s no point since you could probably write the whole plot out ahead of time just based off the first episode. :

  • omo

    I kind of agree in terms of people who approach an adaptation of an existing work conflicts with someone who didn’t. It’s just how it is sometimes, and I wish people realize that what they’re doing reduces the enjoyment of others.

    But both approaches are valid approaches, and sometimes some works are kind of wink-nods to people who are familiar with the source material, sometimes it’s the only way to tackle something (UBW, lol). Other times the anime team makes a good faith effort to create a stand-alone narrative that people going into it blind can also enjoy (and often, only they get to enjoy it since most people who are fans of the original works are blind to it).

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