Let’s say you’ve just met someone for the first time (episode 1). His name is Joe. You and Joe talk for about thirty minutes, get acquainted, find out perhaps that you graduated from the same college or whatever, and then you say ‘seeya’ and part ways. Now, after talking to Joe for just thirty minutes, how well do you think you know him? Well enough that you think you can judge him?
You don’t know shit about Joe. You don’t even know his last name. You haven’t met or even seen pictures of his family, you don’t know his life’s story, and you don’t know his personal thoughts. You just know his name is Joe and he graduated Brown University in 1995, and maybe that both of you are huge Hunter S. Thompson fans. But are you going to go telling all of your friends about Joe? Are you going to post about Joe and what kind of guy he is on the internet? I don’t think so.
If you liked Joe that first time, maybe you’ll hang out with him some more (halfway point). Perhaps it’s more of a casual friendship – someone you like to hang out with every now and then, perhaps in the presence of others. Or perhaps you’ve even found yourself really enjoying his company. Maybe you’re even feeling just a bit emotionally attached to Joe. But you still don’t know all about Joe. You still don’t know where he grew up, what his parents are like, or how much of a bitch his ex-girlfriend was. At this point, I won’t blame you if you tell some of your friends that Joe is a cool guy, or invite him to parties, but I still don’t think you’d be making any definitive statements about him.
Well, now you and Joe have been hanging out for about a year (completed series.) You guys know each-other pretty damn well now. You hang out at least once a week and you liven up the places you hang out. People know you are buddies, and they invite you places as a pair. You can tell someone all about what kind of guy Joe is, and Joe feels comfortable confiding in you and leaving you in the company of his family. Joe is a true friend, and when someone asks, you’re quick to tell them how much you know Joe.
Now it’s been a couple of years, and you know Joe like the back of your hand (rewatches.) You can finish his sentences. You can tell how he feels just by looking at him. You and Joe don’t even need to hang out all the time to always feel connected, and when you’re looking to do something, you always give Joe a ring to see if he wants to come. You feel like you’ve known Joe forever. You know his history, his secrets… fuck, you could write a book about Joe if you wanted to! People don’t even need to ask you how well you know Joe – you’re like a pair that’s only packaged together. If someone wants to know you, they’re also going to know Joe.
Now, this overlong analogy is standing sort of in the replacement of a post I’ve been half-working on for over a month called ‘exercising discretion on how much you should know before writing a review.’ The point of the post was to be that before you say anything definitive about a show, you should get to know it on the maximum level, and that discretion should be used as to how much that level is. It’s obvious you don’t want to write a definitive review on a show before completing it, but there are shows like Serial Experiments Lain that purposefully conceal information and reward rewatches that you really should take time to fully grasp before you claim to know the show enough to say something definitive about it.
This post isn’t so much about reviews, though, as simply talking about a show at all before it’s finished. People love to do episodic posts and talk about shows as they air, but to me, it feels like a largely uninteresting way to discuss anime. This is why when I talk about anime as it’s airing I mostly end up diving into the technical side of things (who works on it, how it looks, how it’s written, directing, pacing, etc.) and less on about the plot, characters, and themes. Because truly, how can we say we understand these things before we see them develop fully?
I direct everyone to Twelve Kingdoms, a show known for it’s complex plot and extremely well-developed characters. Twelve Kingdoms was not very popular at all when it first aired. And why is this? Because in the first episode, the main character, Youko, is a whiny little bitch. She’s a complacent coward the likes of Shinji, and no one wants to see that. I’ve seen many, many accounts of people who initially dropped the show because the main character had seemed so unlikable, or had heard such. Now, let’s say I’m an episodic blogger, and I watch the first episode of Twelve Kingdoms, hate the main character, bash the show, and drop it. The message I am telling everyone is ‘this is a show with a crappy main character, don’t watch it.’ And some people wont.
If these bloggers had watched as many as two more episodes, they probably would have realized that this was a show about massive character development, and if they’d gotten to episode six or seven their whole perception of the show from the first episode would have been flipped on it’s head. But now they’re stuck with this negative impression. Even when people start talking about how great the show is, the negative bloggers might put it off because of their negative impressions and only watch it and fall in love with it some six months later, or the people who read about how bad it was on his blog have to be lucky enough to get the new perspective of someone else later in the series.
For me personally, it doesn’t really feel right to talk about a show before I get to know it. When I talk about the early episodes of a series, I just feel awkward. While the technical aspects are absolutes and therefor easy enough to discuss, everything else is a perspective liable to change as the series progresses, and getting ideas and biases in my head early on is not going to help the rest of the series. This is also why I have a tendency to marathon most of what I watch.
I don’t think there’s something inherently wrong with talking about a show as it’s airing, I just think you should really get to know Joe before you talk about him to your friends, whether it may lead you to telling everyone he’s a great guy when he ends up being a dick, or if you make people miss out on a friendship with a really great guy.
[I expect comments about how gay I am for Joe]
The Epic Journey is a post series that’s all about me trying to understand and love shows on the deepest possible level.
We Remember Love is usually all about exploring your favorite anime, but lately he talks about shows that are still going on. As a result, I can’t really read those posts.