Relationship between Viewer and Marketing Channel, How We Evaluate What Anime to Watch

Let’s do this Anime & Database thing.

Mako, haitenai?

And I don’t mean Anime Planet or MyAnimeList. I mean the way I report what I watch in a way where it can be further processed. Usually this means the MAL kind of way, for example, to keep track what you have watched, to keep a running clock of all that you watched, as a way to keep notes on what you watched (rating), and a way for people to collect aggregate data in order to provide additional services (my anime is better than your anime, recommendation system, etc). But that’s not what I mean.

I mean it in a way where the relationship drives the data, not the objects of the relationship.

For example, I always try to watch at least one episode of anything that piques my interest, each season. I think I skipped Megane-bu, for example, because while I’ve seen some caps that piques my interests, I doubt it can have a hold on me for even one whole episode. I guess for the same reasons I watched one episode of Freezing S2, but that’s more because I saw all of the first season. I clearly don’t always make the right choices, but I do try. But I also probably couldn’t even if I really wanted to do it, because my attention span is only so much and I can only spare so many cognitive cycles hunting out shows nobody is talking about.

I do this because in general, I don’t trust the average anime preview–they have a terrible batting average, and I can evaluate the same pre-release information just as well if presented on a plate; which is what most anime preview posts should do. Since, after all, most of us are just guessing; some are better at it than others, but the best (IMHO) also present information I care about. Like notable directors or writers, actors and composers, the way the marketing is put together, the release type, the back story to how the anime or IP came to be, what have you.

But even with a mountain of information (and surprisingly we rarely have this much before something airs) anime is such a visual medium that you really have to see it to believe it, so to speak. Unlike manga and light novels, it takes hundreds of people to make a TV anime–that’s a lot of places where things can go wrong. And then there are the original works where pre-release info is much harder to come by. And for that matter, in my opinion most anime come across complicated enough that few, if any, bloggers can do enough justice as a substitute for my own evaluation of a work. At any rate, a group consensus in the community might help guide my own opinion on something, but until you see for yourself, how do you know the consensus is full of crap? It isn’t frequently the case, but it has been the case before, and more over, I’m not sure how many people are just a part of some internet echo chamber or people with legitimate opinion that they care enough to voice in order to reinforce things. Is the community consensus even a relevant indicator? How do we even know on an individual basis? I imagine it is relevant sometimes, but few bats 1.000 with consensus–that’s weird and rare in a large enough of a community.

And even more importantly, once I reach a certain threshold of caring in participating in this nerd culture, I might as well partake the source material. I would rather poop on SAO, for example, because I watched it and found it enjoyable to poop on, than because it’s the cool kids thing to do. I owe it to SAO for at least that much. I owe it to my non-simulcast-enabled predecessors to enjoy this modern marvel (to illustrate another relationship I have with fandom that may be unique to a small group of people). It also counts for what little intellectual honesty that probably matters the most, at the end of the day.

Of course, it’s also kind of dishonest to enjoy a show because you dropped it like a rock 3 episodes in, even if that might be a perfectly honest thing to say. It speaks about your relationship with the scene as much as it does with the objective qualities of said anime. It is self-expression, purely speaking. (As opposed to constructive criticism or evaluation of the anime being dropped.)

The point here is that for every show that I watch, I treat the activity of doing so as a part of the overall experience that I have with a show. Maybe I watched some trailers. Maybe I read a preview post that talks about who and what is going to be in next season’s new shows. Maybe I follow certain animators or actors and they’re in so-and-so show next season. This is the sort of data that interests me, in that it captures why I am interested in a certain anime or how likely I might enjoy a certain to-be-aired anime. I might use that information to ultimately decide if I want to watch a show or not, but it’s just one aspect of a relationship, much like how watching the show is just one aspect of the relationship (see SAO example above). And to some extent any concerned fan would follow a similar process, I would hope. In a way for people who are still watching anime (a big assumption), word-of-mouth recommendations, marketing material and reviews ought to be not the only things we go by. Maybe those are just channels, and these channels relay the important stuff (like stuff you’ll find in a MAL entry like genre, director, etc) in which you have an existing relationship with. And channels are a built-in filter in a overwhelmingly noisy world, so to speak.

It’s in this way that we nerds naturally make decisions based on this relational data in order to make sense of a much more complicated set of data (eg., what’s on MAL), such that we can make good decisions (eg., what anime you will watch next season). And I think marketing is a step of most people when it comes to modeling the sort of information that we obtain, that we want to obtain, and what enable us to make good decisions. Well, this is nothing new, at any rate–reviews, blog posts, advertising, the usual stuff. It’s just that even these things are mediated by the relationship we have with the particular channel. For example, if we don’t like certain visual signals coming from one marketing campaign, some of us will write it off immediately because they may never encounter any false-positives when evaluating works carrying those visual signals. To use a concrete example, such as half-naked teenage boys swimming–a lot of people reacted to that visual signal, particularly because it’s relatively new and it generally yielded no false-positives.

Simoun is a good counterexample to Free, because it’s a very good example of a false-negative. If you understand why, then great, maybe people can understand my blog posts after all.

The picture is further clouded in that sense because now you have shows that serve multiple roles or aspects. The high profile examples of these are, say, Aikatsu or the more recent Precure shows in the past few years. Or maybe even Gundam Build Fighters. And like proper otaku media, it builds a narrative with its viewers in a self-selecting sort of way, and it uses wide channels common to mainstream media. It’s also a problem with the MAL-style of analysis. It’s unlikely everyone out of the hundreds to tens of thousands of people who watched a show did so for the same reasons. I would posit a step further that it’s likely a significant number of people watched a show for reasons not clearly marked in a “database” sort of way in a MAL (or any other) DB entry. I would say it’s likely that at least one person may be watching a show that I passed judgment on for reasons entirely beyond my scope of understanding and comprehension, beyond my calculus. And it might be a great reason, if you are that person. It even goes beyond a simple right-or-wrong sort of situation–that’s down right silly to work within that framework, speaking as someone who has gotten more OCD about the older he gets. For example, who am I to say that “Noto kawaiiyo Noto” is a bad reason to watch any show? And it wouldn’t be obvious as to why someone watches a show unless you’ve established some kind of relationship with someone to understand that is why they may be watching a show.

Anyway, this post is brought to you by the need to recognize and be cognizant of the signals you are taking in, often because the signals are never as simple as they seem, and this is a better database than the one based on IP. But that’s like saying vectors are better than bitmaps and looked at how far that got them, so what do I know…

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