The Reason a Phrase Like "Shounen" Exists is So You'll Stop Bitching About Shows That Weren't Meant For You

Theres a good reason this shit is in a shounen magazine

There's a good reason this shit is in a "shounen" magazine

People love to bitch about anime, as is made evident by the fact that blogs and /a/ exist. It’s understandable that people want to talk about anime that they don’t like, to possibly exercise the frustrations of having sat through a disappointing show. I know what it’s like when a show suddenly goes down hill or a character gets on your nerves in a show you like and you want to complain. However, it bothers me to see people complaining about things that they were never meant to like in the first place.

Wildarmsheero captured this phenomenon nicely in his latest Mistakes of Youth comic (though he did it in a completely elitist and ass-backward way.) Yes it’s true, there are people out there who will complain that Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is a bad show because it doesn’t have a plot. But that’s the point of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei! It’s a show that was never meant to have a plot, which is the very appeal of the show! If you complain that you want it to have a plot, you are pretty much saying that you wish it was a different show entirely. If this is the case, it’s obvious that the show wasn’t meant for YOU to like.

So why complain about it? How can you be upset that a show which was never meant to appeal to you in the first place didn’t meet your standards? It’s not the show’s fault that it doesn’t meet your standards, because it was never trying to. You can’t blame it for simply being what it is.

The biggest place I see this happening is with ‘shounen’ anime/manga. Before we even delve into this, I want to step aside and make this very clear: a “shounen” or “shoujo” or “seinen” manga is 100 PERCENT defined by what magazine it was published in. Just because it seems like it’s more intelligent or violent doesn’t mean it’s seinen if it’s published in “shounen ace.” If Fist of the North Star was published in “Shojo Beat” it would be a shoujo manga, period. With that out of the way….

I’m tired of seeing people complain about shounen anime not meeting their standards when it is obviously not meant for them. Shounen manga has a target audience of about 8 to 14 year-olds. If you are 21 and you don’t like it, it might be because you are 21 and you shouldn’t like it. Recently, Baka-Raptor did a post about how he hated One Piece because he hated Luffy. He lists a lot of reasons both for disliking the show itself and Luffy as a character, namely that Luffy always gets himself into stupid situations that jeopardize his team.

Not enough plot? But then it wouldnt be Zetsubou Sensei!

Not enough plot? But then it wouldn't be Zetsubou Sensei!

But it’s a kid’s show! It’s written for an audience that DOES want to see Luffy get into silly situations, because they think it’s funny and enjoy it! They want to see the crying kids and retarded enemies! The value of a kids show like One Piece is not in it’s ability to appeal to a college student like Baka-Raptor and the league of internet toughguys backing him up in the comments, but in it’s ability to appeal to the children towards which it’s aimed. It’s meaningless to complain about the show’s ‘flaws’ from your view if they aren’t seen as ‘flaws’ by the intended audience.

It’s like saying death metal music sucks because it has screaming vocals, or a Pokemon game sucks because it is too easy, or a reality show sucks because it has too much drama, or a rap song sucks because it has offensive lyrics. It’s not that it sucks, it’s that it was never meant for you in the first place. All of these things have an audience who will enjoy them, and that audience is what will determine their real value.

And I mean, it’s not like you can’t like something that wasn’t meant for you. There are plenty of great shounen and shoujo series that have appeal to people outside their demographic. And, in fact, Baka-Raptor himself is a fan of several shounen anime. But if you like it, it’s because that particular story coincides with your interests, and not because it is better than the other works of it’s demographic. I love Soul Eater – it’s a shounen anime. I don’t generally like shounen anime, which makes sense since it’s not aimed at me, but I do happen to like Soul Eater because it has elements that happen to appeal to me. That doesn’t mean it’s better than other shounen anime, it just means I like it.

I know you can’t convince the internet to stop bitching about anything, but it just seems so pointless to whine about shows that you weren’t necessarily meant to enjoy.

39 thoughts on “The Reason a Phrase Like "Shounen" Exists is So You'll Stop Bitching About Shows That Weren't Meant For You

  1. Genres like shounen or seinen are used so that it’s easier to pigeon-hole different series (i.e convenience), but by saying that series are 100% defined by what magazine they’re published in, you’re limiting their target audience when there’s no real need to. Elements from genres often bleed into each other. For example, FMA is a shounen manga that also has seinen elements. If anything you could say it’s targeted at 14-21 year olds. But by your definition this is impossible since it’s in a shounen magazine. I’d always judge a series based on its content rather than where it’s published.

    There’s no way you can say that just because a person isn’t in a target demographic they can’t legitimately critique a show. I really dislike shoujo, but doe that mean I can’t say that characters are stereotypical, or make stupid decisions? No! As far as one’s own opinion goes, flaws are flaws no matter if the show wasn’t meant for them.

    “It’s meaningless to complain about the show’s ‘flaws’ from your view if they aren’t seen as ‘flaws’ by the intended audience.”

    That’s retarded. Fuck, that’s like saying a movie reviewer can’t make any comments about a children’t movie. It makes no sense! Let’s not forget that EVERYTHING IS SUBJECTIVE. When anyone says anything sucks, it’s because to them, it does suck. If they’re able to support their complaints, then those complaints are legitimate.

    • First of all, your first paragraph missed the point. Shounen and seinen etc. are BY DEFINITION restricted to magazines, PERIOD, hence my last paragraph about likeing soul eater.

      And no, if everything is subjective, then we should be using subjective terms, not ones like ‘suck’. we should be saying ‘I don’t like it’

  2. Well said. For the record, Pokemon was fucking difficult till I figured out that matching them to the elements made battles a whole lot easier (but fuck random encounters seriously fuck fuck fuck).

    Regarding what Omisyth is saying: What are seinen elements anyway? Is there a Centralised Internet Definition Committee that defines these things? For the record, I don’t think digiboy is de-legitimising the opinions or criticisms, it’s just that… if you get pain from banging your head against the wall, why the hell are you banging your head against the wall? Wouldn’t you want to, y’know, stop doing that and get away from the wall? Or maybe start banging your head against a padded cell, where it’s softer?

    But that’s besides the point. Some of the most puerile opinions I’ve read on the internet refuse to accept the premise of a given story. What’s the point of doing that? If you hate/dislike/are tsundere for visual novel adaptations, don’t even start with the pilot. Go watch something else. In the same way, if you have a deep-seated loathing for mecha, watching one episode at the beginning of the season will probably reinforce your existing preconceptions more than anything.

    That being said, digiboy, I do think that Baka Raptor did a good thing with his post–he knows why he hated One Piece, and he tells us exactly why so that he doesn’t have to go into Generalisation Overdrive and slip in a casual “Btw, One Piece sucks” into a future post of his which will, for lack of a better theoretical response, leave his readers going “WTF? WHY?!” Better to get that out of the way ASAP, don’t you think?

    • His post isn’t the worst, since he does say why he doesn’t like it, but I think it’s just silly how he acts like these things are fundamental negatives. He says ‘Luffy does stupid stuff’ and I go ‘…so what?’

  3. Well, well, well!

    I agree with the general premise of the post, and Owen has mentioned important points that articulate my opinion already; so I won’t repeat, instead offer what I think is something worth considering.

    I don’t think any show is targeted at me, at least not anymore.

    While I don’t have a regular practice of criticizing or reviewing shows. I know what I don’t like, and I agree with Omisyth in that my reasons for not liking the shows aren’t necessarily invalidated by the fact that I’m not the target audience. Because if so, what’s the point of my appreciation and writing? Does my praise for a certain show mean it’s only a result of a happy accident?

    It could well be, since I’m not Japanese, a teenager, or a purchaser of Japanese goods and cultural products (in the strict sense, because the toys I buy aren’t even advertised locally; the shows that feature them are not shown locally). So no, I am never really a target in the way that planning and marketing meetings for shows don’t ask the question: “what would ghostlightning like, and how do we cater to his interests?”

    But in the end, a post like Baka-Raptor’s is important to me only in that I know why he dislikes it. I don’t take it as an absolute conclusion on the lack of merit of One Piece.

    Reading blog posts is an active thing, you’ll also need to contextualize the purpose and content of the post and figure out how useful it is for you. While there will be posts or blogs I will not enjoy outright (therefore I do not subscribe to them), many can be enjoyable depending on how you process the content yourself.

    • >>>Reading blog posts is an active thing, you’ll also need to contextualize the purpose and content of the post and figure out how useful it is for you. While there will be posts or blogs I will not enjoy outright (therefore I do not subscribe to them), many can be enjoyable depending on how you process the content yourself.

      I definitely and wholeheartedly agree with that, though I still see it as a problem in that I don’t think a lot of readers take the time to contextualize (as is evident in many comments on my posts by people who don’t know how to respond to me) and when these people read ‘oh this show sucks’ they might not understand that it’s just your fault and no the show’s.

      Think of all the people who currently aren’t watching Fight Ippatsu Juuden-chan because so many bloggers said ‘oh this show is trash, it’s stupid fanservice’ where the show is actually pretty good, and if those people hadn’t listened to the bloggers who only disliked it for their own reasons, they might have given it a chance and liked it.

      • This is why I don’t combat opinion, instead explore items of interest within the subject work. That in turn may generate interest in the show from a casual reader or viewer. If I start of with a premise of “I don’t like this show,” or “I don’t think this show is bad,” the reader of the post, instead of considering what I have to say, is immediately looking for validation of her opinion of the show or how to rebut my writing.

        For me, this makes it boring. People will think what they will. What I’d rather go for is to make things interesting using a subject work. I don’t particularly find it interesting to read or participate in “UR WATCHING/READING/DOING IT WRNG” conversations.

        • I’m with you there, which is why I’ve largely given up on things like that outside of reviews, and I don’t write my reviews in a ‘this is why the show is good/bad’ way, I write them in a ‘here’s what’s in the show, and what I think about it’

  4. It’s the obsessiveness of some people’s bashing that really gets me. You don’t like moe? Fine, you can have your one post bashing it. But if you’re still watching K-ON! after a dozen episodes and still bashing it episode by episode, I have to say “WTF?” That’s what gets me. How many more negative posts do I have to see flooding Nano swearing that they hate Endless Eight yet they still post about it every week. Shit like that is why I’ll one day just abandon major aggregators and just keep my clicks down to a handful of websites.

    • Perfectly said, I don’t understand peoples’ ‘hatedoms’ of some shows. Like those who have to obsessively attack Kyoto Animation and shit.

      • Because it’s fun.
        There are ppl who find it fun to write about that and ppl who find it fun to read about that. I dont know about the rest though.
        1 more thing is that when some shows become so famous and attract attention ppl tend to care more about them and that’s why even they dont like it, many ppl still watch them. Because they hate it when they dont understand anything when ppl talk about those shows or because their friends like it, etc.. or in baka-raptor’s case, because he’s a blogger ( maybe that’s just an excuse though ).
        if you dont like how the fandom is or cant enjoy their way of having fun i really think you should just join a small community.I find reading their post is really entertaining though, well maybe not too much when the target is my favourite show lol

        Sry for my crappy english

  5. I actually had a legitimate comment to make, but then I realized I’m just pissed that you haven’t done any Screaming Otaku in a while, so I scratched it all out and decided to voice my displeasure over the lack of comic installments instead.

    However, I will chime in with the feeling that the notion that one can only really have legitimate complaints about a show if they are within the target demographic is a bit problematic – I thought the Kami-chama Karin anime was horrible, but I’m not a middle school-aged girl, so does the fact that I disliked it for being poorly animated, badly plotted, and flip about the central timeline not matter at all?

    • Not really, because if little girls don’t mind the bad animation, it prolly doesn’t matter. But I didn’t know Kamichama Karin was a kids show…

      Also, a new screaming otaku will go up TONIGHT since u asked for it.

  6. Nice post ! But you’re talking like a manager looking for profit (TARGET AUDIENCES, and stuff) and not as an anime fan ! I mean, CRAPPY SHOWS ARE STILL CRAPPY SHOWS AFTER ALL even if its target audience should like CRAPPY THINGS, they still suck.

    A understand your point of view, and it is perfect. If you can see things this way, you can go far running your own business.

    But as an anime fan i can say that those popular animes are all overated. They have a lot of fans, and these do put high scores on them even if they are very bad.

    As i wrote above, BAD shows are still BAD shows doesn’t matter its target audience. The same applies to BAD MUSIC, BAD DRAMAS, EASY GAMES…etc…


  7. My hit rate with Shonen anime is higher than it is for any other genre. I’ve liked nearly every shonen title I’ve seen:

    – DBZ
    – Naruto
    – Bleach
    – Yu Yu Hakusho
    – Hunter x Hunter
    – Claymore (my all-time favorite anime/manga franchise)
    – Fist of the North Star
    – Soul Eater

    If there’s any genre I can claim to like without being barraged with counterexamples, it’s Shonen. Don’t give me that “it is what it is” nonsense. Perhaps One Piece wasn’t meant to appeal to me, but you can’t say that about the genre. I’d say it’s One Piece that isn’t in line with my interests, not the genre.

    I remember being 8-14 years old. It wasn’t that long ago, really. I didn’t like seeing crying kids and retarded enemies (fuck Bebop and Rocksteady, bring on Shredder and Krang!). Perhaps I’d tolerate them more than I will now, but I always preferred tough good guys and cool bad guys. If I had to choose between Naruto and One Piece when I was eight years old, I’d have taken Naruto without a doubt.

    • I’d then argue that you don’t fall into a follow-up demographic of One Piece. Not only is it aimed at kids, but it’s aimed at certain kids who will like that sort of thing, and not at kids who won’t, like you were. My point is simply that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Luffy’s personality, it just doesn’t coincide with your standards. And I would have taken Naruto first, too, and did (I was a huge fanboy) because I liked One Piece, but it wasn’t violent enough for me.

  8. I think you’re premise is wrong. “You’re not supposed to like it because it wasn’t targetted at you” is a pretty vacuous defense, maybe even an invalid one. To take an extreme counter-example, The Odyssey wasn’t targetted at me (it was targetted at half-savages at the dawn of time), but it’s still worth a bit of time.

    Complaining that Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has no character development is a perfectly valid reason for not liking it. It doesn’t matter that the artists are trying to do something else — what the artist is trying to do is not what that individual is looking for. And it’s also pretty easy to imagine someone finding SZS‘s formula a bit wearying and predictable after a few episodes.

    The best shows (to my way of thinking) are those that break out of their genres, that defy the way they’re classified, or even subvert that classification.

    • I don’t disagree that you can dislike SZS for not having character development, I’m just asking why you would criticize the show for it if the show never aimed to have such a thing.

      • I think you can criticize it for not aiming to have such a thing: all that talent going to waste; the show would be better if, instead of having one-dimensional characters it had characters with the same quirks, but also depth. Looking at Zetsubou Sensei as the deconstruction of the harem genre, you can be disappointed that it leaves short-comings of the harem genre untouched/unsurpassed.

        • >>Looking at Zetsubou Sensei as the deconstruction of the harem genre, you can be disappointed that it leaves short-comings of the harem genre untouched/unsurpassed.

          Consider TheBigN’s statement below:

          >>>Or rather, it makes me think of the people who get really mad at a show because it isn’t what they wanted it to be instead of watching it and taking it as you get it.

          Or at least the no argument to me comes out like “shit sucks because it doesn’t have ‘x’, even though it’s not the type of show that should have ‘x’ in it.” Though whether or not one thinks that there should be ‘x’ in a show is another matter entirely.

          Take it as it is and go from there instead on ragging on it for what it’s not and never attempted to be (granted, that’s subjective depending on the person too, but it’s not fun if it’s like that :P)?

          • Man’s reach must exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?

            Why settle for less? Why not want more out of a series?

            “Oh, stop expecting that show to be good — it’s intended to be mediocre” sounds silly to me. Take your talk about “shounen shows intended for 12 year-olds”. I can show you a few shows (the early Rocky and Bullwinkle, 1930s Popeye cartoons, Totoro and Kiki’s delivery service that were intended for children, but can be enjoyed by adults who leave the brains running while they watch (I’ve actually heard One piece described like that, too).

          • we’ve reached max comment depth i guess, but this is at dm: Maybe it’s just a matter of me personally, but I feel like not every show has to be the top of it’s class to be enjoyable, and I’d rather that there be the show that doesn’t go all the way as well as the one that does. It just means that they will be two different experiences.

            • How about this? “Don’t expect Gurren Lagaan to be good because it’s just a genre for 12-year-olds”. Aren’t you glad that Gainax didn’t pay much heed to that sentiment?

              On the other hand, reflecting on my reply (below) to TheBigN, I realized that I’ve felt that you are often much better than I am at expressing what is good about a show, and looking at a show in depth (I think it was your commentary on FLCL that made me notice this). So maybe I should go think about my “viewing critically makes viewing better” theory some more, in light of a counter-example.

              • The point I make with this post would have been more aimed to say the people who say Gurren Lagann sucks for all of it’s silliness and over-the-top nature. Like anything else, Gurren Lagann has it’s share of haters, and they are the ones I’m calling ‘wrong’ here. Almost any show has people who say it sucks for reasons like this.

  9. I remember Stripey, Owen and/or TheBigN’s stance against “vitriolic impressions” against shows, particularly how people end up pinning the blame on the anime and go “this shit sucks” when in fact there’s no one else to blame for the said “shitty feeling” but themselves. [shameless plug warning] Lately I’ve been thinking that all animes can be enjoyed if viewed in the right light, even the wrong light, if we’d be so willing to enjoy it, that is. All it takes is a little humility (not holding on to absolutes, acknowledging the possibility that you’d be proven wrong) and the willingness to enjoy something, regardless of whether you’re part of the target audience or not.

    Oh, and lastly, overrated is overrated, and while I can’t blame Laguna Loire (dear commenter, you are tainting the name of Laguna!! * ahem *) for thinking the way he does, I do feel sorry that he has totally lost the capacity to enjoy “POPULAR/OVERRATED” animes just because, and for spouting nothing else but CRAPPY in his comment instead of even showing WHY he thinks so, apart from the “overrated opinion of other people about it”.

    • I guess it is normal for everyone to “bitch” about things that they don’t like, mainly because, if we see the grades of these shows, we’re expecting great things on them ? right ? But i guess that is one of the biggest mistakes everyone just commit from now and then… EXPECT SOMETHING FROM SOMEONE… in this case, EXPECT SOME SHOW TO BE GOOD IF EVERYONE ELSE IS SAYING SO. If you expect something from something and you don’t really get what you were expecting, then you’ll get dissapointed. This doesn’t have anything with target audiences. Companies make bad shows on purpose, for profit. The bigest example of this is naruto filler, VERY BAD ON PURPOSE, YET VERY PROFITABLE, because people who liked the series back then, cannot drop it, they’re already fans, and are expecting that the series come back to be what it was back then (WHICH NEVER HAPPENED).

      My point is… CRAPPY SHOWS ARE STILL CRAPPY SHOWS AFTER ALL, no matter if it has HIGH GRADES, or if it is HIGHLY POPULAR.

      Enjoying GOOD shows or enjoying BAD shows is anything but having individual TASTE.

      That’s why a lotta people enjoy naruto filler even if it is very bad.

      But why i can’t “taint” the name of Laguna ?! Tehehehe :P

  10. I’m not sure I get what you’re trying to get at. Baka-Raptor can’t claim that One Piece sucks because it’s not targeted at him? Ok, I don’t agree but I see you’re point. But as baka-raptor said, he IS the target audience seeing as he loves shounen series, but then you say that he doesn’t fall in to a “follow -up demographic”? I think that’s pushing it. If everybody viewed it that way, no one could ever criticize anything……ever

  11. Whoops, that wasn’t my whole post ( I have examples !)
    Let’s say that I’m the biggest K-ON fanatic ever. I have the entire series on blu-ray, own all the manga, listen to the cd’s, sleep with a Mio doll, whatever. Now lets say for some odd reason I hated episode three because um…there wasnt enough mio in it ( stay with me here I didn’t get past episode 2). Can I not dislike it beause I’m not the “target audience” or fit in with the follow up demographic?

    • I’ve never said you couldn’t dislike anything. Now, if you said ‘that episode sucks because it doesn’t have enough Mio in it’ I’d ask ‘don’t you mean you don’t LIKE that episode because it doesn’t have enough Mio in it?’ It’s all in the phrasing.

      • Yes Yes Yes! You’ve just said it: the thing I’ve been meaning to say to the blogosphere but keep forgetting. It’s all in the phrasing.

        “This show sucks” will piss off fans of the show and is generally annoying.

        “I didn’t like this show at all” (plus why) will create good debate and keep counter-emotions in check.

        “This show is overated” is just stupid and needs to die.

        Nobodies perfect. During a quick post or when we’re lazy, the best of us can still fall victim in their writing to example number one. But if you don’t at least try to understand why some would like the show and simply write it off as crap, then what good is the whole post anyways? Where’s the debate? Where’s the reasoning? Where’s the meat of the arguement? That’s the stuff that separates the men from the boys.

  12. The no’s to this argument confused me. Or rather, it makes me think of the people who get really mad at a show because it isn’t what they wanted it to be instead of watching it and taking it as you get it.

    Or at least the no argument to me comes out like “shit sucks because it doesn’t have ‘x’, even though it’s not the type of show that should have ‘x’ in it.” Though whether or not one thinks that there should be ‘x’ in a show is another matter entirely.

    Take it as it is and go from there instead on ragging on it for what it’s not and never attempted to be (granted, that’s subjective depending on the person too, but it’s not fun if it’s like that :P)?

  13. I think the point in criticizing a show — and for making explicit the short-comings one finds in a show — is to deepen your appreciation for those shows that overcome such shortcomings, and, in fact, to recognize when a show overcomes those short-comings.

    Learning how to think about bad shows makes good shows that much better.

  14. Pingback: Otakunvirka » “ITT: Overrated anime”

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