I think that one of the biggest things that separates me from most anime fans is that I see storytelling very differently than they do. In general, I really don’t give a damn about the actual ‘plot’ of a show. To me, everything is staked on the presentation. What are the characters saying, who are they, what does the show look like, how is it paced, how is it directed, how does it sound, and most importantly, how do I react to it? This core of my perception of a show pretty much explains my favorites list and my ability to love so many shows that make other people cock an odd eye at me.
In essence, this is how I am capable of not really caring for a show like 12 Kingdoms that has a deep, intricate, and riveting plot for sure, but comes off as boring to me because it is presented in a way that puts it’s story first. However, I may love a show like Hidamari Sketch that has no story at all, but has fun characters and dialog, an interesting visual style, great voice acting and music, and makes me feel a certain way towards it.
The reason I feel this way is quite simply that there is nothing left for me to really enjoy in a plot. I’ve simply seen it all before. No matter how deep and intricate your fantasy story is, none of it is something I’ve never seen before, and even if it’s presented well enough to be above it’s peers, it still may not be presented as well as a plotless story that I can fully enjoy. This is why anime itself is such an amazing medium for me – the possibilities for presentation are so vast. Unlike a novel wherein storytelling variations may only go as far as the author’s chosen style (which can of course be enough itself, but means that an author must have superb control to make something great) in anime, you can literally make anything happen on the screen (unlike live-action where you are limited by human capability) and you can animate it in any number of ways, with whatever music, voices, character designs, style, and dialog you desire.
Which leads me into a little something called ‘creator intent.’ For me personally, I hold creator’s intent as the most important way of understanding a story (perhaps springing from my own desire to have people understand exactly what I mean.) A lot of people have told me that the reason they love novels is that they can use their own imagination to determine how everything looks, sounds, and is. I, on the other hand, would much rather see exactly what the creators want me to see. I want to see the world they envision, the characters they envision, and the sounds they hear in their world.
Now, many people have pointed out that ‘creator’s intent’ can be a very hard thing to pinpoint in anime, because there are so many ‘creators’ involved. But I’m okay with that – I see it as a ‘collective vision’. What you receive is the combined vision of all those who worked on the piece, and thus you receive a whole of their thoughts and ideas to experience. I also have put a lot of time and effort into ‘deciphering’ intent myself. For instance, if I discover a director I think I might like, I will watch every show that the director has created, and I can use the commonalities between all of the shows to decipher what kind of thing the director wants to create. That way, when I look at a show, I can tell you exactly what parts of it were the creative decisions of the director, what parts were the work of the art director or the key animator, etc. etc.
This all, of course, leads into my thoughts on endings. I hear a LOT of people bitch and whine about anime endings. I daresay there ain’t a goddamn anime out there for whom the whole fanbase is okay with the ending. I, however, can probably count the endings that I really disliked on my hands (Escaflowne, which is because they rushed 26 episodes into 13, Uta Kata but that show was fucking horrible anyway, but it did have the worst ending I’ve ever seen… and Kare Kano, but that was another production hiccup) reason being once again that aforementioned creator’s intent.
As far as I’m concerned, there really is no ‘wrong’ way to end a series. I see endings as the natural progression of what was happening in the show, whether the audience appreciates that or not. Maybe it’s because I see series as being a defined whole wherein no part of it exists without the others. In other words ‘you can’t have the beginning without the ending’ so whatever happens through the story, that’s what the story is.
I also don’t go into endings with any kind of weird expectations like many people seem to do. I don’t expect the story to end in a certain way, because I know it will end in the way it was meant to end. When I see people complain that an ending should have happened differently, I want to ask them ‘was this your story? No. This was the story someone else wanted to tell, and their story had this ending.’
Even I will admit that I raised an eyebrow during the ending of Mai-HiME (*SPOILERS*) when everyone started coming back to life (*END*) but then I had to ask myself, is there anything wrong with that? Does the fact that they are back change the way I felt when they were gone? No. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t tear up at those moments, and it doesn’t mean that I won’t tear up when I watch them again. What made me tear up those times was not the facts of the events but the presentation and drama that resonated with me in such a way as to elicit a reaction. Had the series ended with them still gone, I’d have appreciated that ending, and I can still appreciate the ending in which they return, because it is just another part of the continuing story. (Also, rewatching the series, you can actually see the foreshadowing that this will happen. In episode 13, Mai is told a legend about 12 women who each would meet terrible fates and then later would all return to conquer their foes. So yeah.)
Some of the endings that many hate are my favorites. Neon Genesis Evangelion had one of my favorite endings ever, and the movie is my single favorite. I don’t really know what kind of Evangelion is supposed to exist without the ending it had. I have never had a vision of that other ending for the series – the ending has always been the definition of the series for me, as is any ending, and thusly I appreciate them all.
Ha ha, you actually did it. Brilliant.
‘course, it’s now quarter past ten in the morning and I am in no fit state to reply. But I will, once I’ve been to bed.
Saying you value presentation above all else makes praising Mai-HiME’s ending even more laughable, though.
Mad props for Eva, though. I especially liked the EPIC LINE OF FREEDOM DESTRUCTION.
I am a LINE. By existing, I DESTROY YOUR FREEDOM. Watch me laugh. MWHA HA HA. Now let’s dance.
I don’t see why it’s even more laughable. I thought it was an interesting ending, though it could be because I’m the kind of guy who likes to see characters live on (though I do prefer that a story follows a character to their death, but in Mai-HiME’s case, I don’t think any of the characters were fleshed-out enough yet for that) reason being that it means more possibilities for them. People often complain about how in Bleach, characters often come close to death but no one ever actually dies – the way I see it, why kill them? There is so much development and interaction that they’ll be able to do if they keep on living.
Mai-HiME may have made a bad choice by bringing them alive right at the end when they wouldn’t have any time to be developed further, though I think the creators knew there would be more seasons (even if they stupidly set them in an alternate universe) but even then, now I feel like if I like the characters enough I could write fanfiction or imagine up endings for the characters. It may sound odd for me to say that with all my personal love for creators intent, but I would make the case that I do understand the desire of others to add their imagination to the stories, and maybe the creators intent was to leave things open-ended so you can fill in the blanks. I think that pretty much every romance anime ends that way.
Where have you ever seen plots like those of Death Note and Higurashi?
I will admit that there are a small handful of series such as those two are pretty out-there in terms of plot. However, the plot is constructed as the sum of pre-existing parts. For death note, there have been plenty of serial murderer stories, detective stories, stories about shinigami, stories about people who gain powers to control death, etc. In higurashi, there have been violent tales of romantic insanity as well as time loop stories, so the elements themselves are not that unique. What is unique is, well, the presentation of those elements.
Isn’t that just sophistry?
Given what Wikipedia tells me about sophistry, how the hell am I supposed to answer that? Obviously I’m going to say ‘no’ because I’m backing my own argument, but if you say it is, then how could it not be?
No offense, but I fail to see how “presentation of elements” differs from “plot.” From your definition, you’d have to go back to ancient Mesopotamian stories to find anything original.
“Where have you ever seen plots like those of Death Note and Higurashi?”
Death Note – most of political detective fiction. Sure, it doesnt have any appeal for teenagers, but just as exciting if you “get” it.
Higurashi – i’m pretty sure that Doctor Who had something like that. Also Osamu Tezuka.
Death Note having no appeal for teenagers? I was attracted by Death Note when i was like 13 or 14.
Not what he meant. He meant that death note took political detective fiction and made it appeaal to teenagers, but is not unique except for int hat fact.
wow to love the endings that everyone hates… you must be a very contented person. I respect the creator’s intent or what not but still, when you are so into a story, you could not help but have some expectations and when the story crushed that expectations, that’s when love turns to hate. For example, I LOVE the story of True Tears but the ending made me hates it. I probably would still cry if I watch it again though.
I’m a Noefag myself, and I actually think her ending is great because I don’t think the guy really deserved her anyway and I think that as harsh as the show was to her, she will persevere. However, it does bother me that we are supposed to buy the relationship that does happen. that shit will last like a week.
exactly! People need to understand that boring archetype relationship will never last. Hence why the divorce rate is off the roof nowadays.
Excellent thoughts here. A lot of fans judge anime based solely on the ending and, like you said, will gripe because the ending didn’t turn out the way they personally wanted. I judge anime series as a whole, not just the ending in the last couple of episodes. The only thing that really bothers me in anime endings is when they’re obviously rushed. But other than that, I’ll accept whatever the creator(s) wanted to put in their story. For individual manga-ka or whomever, it’s their story and characters that they want to present, and even if I don’t personally agree with some things they put in their work, I’ll still accept what they do because it’s theirs and not mine. If I can get some enjoyment out of it as a viewer, that’s fine by me.
I also like the ending of Evangelion, both the movie and TV series. Of course, I’m a sucker for all that psychological, thought-provoking stuff in the show.
So would it be fair to say that you’re more interested in character-driven anime?
Under your rubric, it seems that the only shows that can legitimately have a ‘bad’ ending are ones that get their production run cut short, like in the case of Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi or Gundam X; would you agree with that assessment of your argument?
And as regards ‘creator’s intent’ – I’m guessing you’re not really into post-modernism, huh?
1. Yes, I like character-driven anime the best. Because I love characters~
2. I’m not making an ‘argument’ in this post, I’m just stating my own personal reactions. I don’t personally believe in ‘bad’ and ‘good’ in terms of judging things, but I think that everyone has their endings they do or don’t like. Personally, yeah, the endings I dislike are usually due to cut-short runtimes. With the exception of Uta Kata which has the flat-out worst ending ever.
3. I don’t know anything about post-modernism. However, I think if an author tells you that something ‘means whatever you think it means’, then thinking it means something is still following the creator’s intent.
Even if you are not arguing that your way is the best way, you are nevertheless advancing an argument – in this case, your argument is for the validity of your point of view. You aren’t asking anyone else to adopt it, but you are, essentially, asking that people consider it to be a legitimate way of judging endings of shows.
Post-modernism as a form of literary critique (which can be applied to anime despite the fact that anime isn’t literature) is to say that what matters is the meaning one gains from the piece rather than seeing the original creator’s intent as the important factor. Basically, post-modernism is just a nice way of saying ‘self-centered’.
12 Kingdom is WHAT?
Other than being hands down the best fantasy anime ever written I’d say it is really very character-driven, there are very few animes with interesting characters that can really change during the story, 12 Kingdoms is one of this few, and the protagonist really change from an helpless bitch to one of the best heroines that animes have ever seen.
If you don’t like the anime that’ ok, but stop spreading nonsense about the highlight of the show.
BTW the Karekano ending is very Anno-like (well, on the last VHS is printed Anno’s face!) and that’s probably what he wanted to do from the beginning. I too didn’t like it in the beginning but now little by little I’m starting to like it more and more (even if it means cutting off all the Arima arc, which is superb).
Ugh. Where the fuck did I say that 12 Kingdoms didn’t have great characters? I just said it had a deep and intricate plot that came first and that to me it was boring. Where the fuck in there does it say that the characters were bad? I have written extensively about how the show’s characters were great but how I didn’t enjoy them because they didn’t have chemistry (Read here: http://fuzakenna.com/2008/05/23/it-builds-character-or-depth-vs-chemistry-and-the-tournament-of-themes-pt-1/ ) and I posit that I am not spreading any nonsense (by the way, that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever fucking heard, seriously. Yes, my totally positive statement about personal distaste for a show is spreading misinformation. Stop being so fucking paranoid, jesus) but that YOU are in fact spreading nonsense about what I am trying to say. Thank you by the way for totally fucking ignoring the point of my post and talking about other shit in an accusatory way.
By the by, Anno only directed the first 18 episodes of Kare Kano. The reason the ending sucks is that the manga-ka didn’t like how they were representing the show, and in the disputes, Anno left Gainax altogether and Kare Kano was put in the hands of his yet-unpolished understudy (who would go on to do great things directing FLCL and Diebuster). Because the production was now too chaotic, they rounded off what hey could at 26 episodes and then ended production.
Yes, I have to agree with you about enjoying anime that have fun characters and dialog, and I’ll also take them over anime that intricate plots if I find the execution boring.
I also think that having no plot is nothing new, take Seinfeld, (one of my favorite TV shows ever)the creators/writers even admit that the show was about nothing.
I think you’re giving too much credit to anime writers. I’d say in a lot of anime originals (or adaptations, whatever) the writers just make shit up as they go along then come up with some random ending on the fly since they’re restrained by however many cours they bought.
I mean yeah, there’s some well thought-out things out there, but anime is a business and writers treat it as such. They fall back on established formulas to make money and sell more of whatever. I personally don’t mind if it’s entertaining, but I don’t think a lot of those creators out there have any real vision.
Oh, believe me, I know all of that, I know they aren’t putting all that much thought into it, but nevertheless I have never managed to hate an ending, so I guess I enjoy the vision of their greed and falseness as well.
Read your post but kinda lost you on the way and it’s too long too read again.
You are a weird and (very self-centered) fellow saying that you enjoy the creators greed and falseness, though. I wonder how much you ‘ll love a creation that’s not a product of greed and falseness but of good writing, with great presentation, characters and plot. <—– Planetes
As for me after watching the amount of anime I have watched (which is not much) I expect most of the endings to follow either the love conquers all or lolmagicdeepshit pattern as I call it (e.g. Bounen no Xamdou). I don't say that all endings follow these patterns, but simply that an ending that follows one of these two patterns is a possible ending in my mind (and that sometimes I am correct from predicting that a show will end that way).
So for me it's not a matter of liking it or but a matter of surprising me or not.
There is a third pattern: the male lead doesn't pick a girl.
*So for me it’s not a matter of liking it or not but a matter of surprising me or not.