Getting Into The Bones of the Like vs. Enjoy Conflict – It Exists, You Have It

I like Angel's Egg but fuck all it was BORING.

Yesterday, Ghostlightning did a post about how it’s possible for him to like a show that he did not enjoy, and to conversely enjoy a show that he did not like. I at first decried this as impossible for myself – after all, I’m known for not putting up with things I don’t enjoy – my enjoyment seems to be intrinsically tied to what I do or don’t like. However, I mulled around with the thought and realized that, holy shit, ‘like’ and ‘enjoy’ are two totally different things, and then I finally cracked open on something I’ve been fighting for a while. I’ve always hated the way that people often declare ‘their favorites’ as separate from what they consider ‘the best’ anime. And now I’ve stumbled on the real meaning of those dual-lists – it’s a difference between what you ‘like’ and what you ‘enjoy.’

They aren’t the same?

So what’s the difference between ‘liking’ something and ‘enjoying’ it? GL talks more about things that he didn’t enjoy, but liked that he had seen, as well as things that he really liked but did not enjoy the experience of. The part italicized above is where my definition will differ from GL’s, although I do still understand the concept of hating something but being glad you know about it (I hate Shakugan no Shana and Zero no Tsukaima, but having seen the first seasons of both really helped me understand the fandom at the time.) However, I wouldn’t attribute that to having anything to do with the show itself. Even though GL likes having seen ZZ, it’s not as though he liked the show – at least not the way I imagine he ‘liked’ but did not ‘enjoy’ Grave of the Fireflies.

Nay, the way I would define ‘liking’ something, in the context of being as opposed to ‘enjoying’ it, is finding something in the work that you recognize as being exceptional. Another phrase would be ‘something that fits your taste.’ A lot of people like to create a separate list of what they think are the ‘best anime’, but that’s just a humongous hunk of bullshit. The thing that they are seeing is a series that is the perfection of what they consider a likable series to be. It’s the highest upholder of their standards, you could say. Fact is, people don’t have the same standards. The best way I can rub this in your face is to tell you that I consider Canaan and Kure-nai to be works of the utmost highest quality. If you disagree with that statement then congratulations, you now understand that there is no ultimate standard. Think I just have bad taste? Ask around – chances are, you’ll find that everyone has bad taste by your standards. The truth is, you are seeing what you like.

Which might not necessarily match up with what you enjoy. I think these are what people call ‘guilty pleasures’ – shows that a person finds themselves enjoying in spite of the fact that it goes against the things that they like. It can be hard to reconcile that difference, but the fact is that there are certain series that you can find a million things wrong with and not be able to put down.

But it’s not like these things are automatically opposed. On the contrary – what I found as I scoured MAL was that I had a ‘level’ of enjoyment and a ‘level’ of liking for every single show. A statistic I could call to mind without fail. Now, because I had a level for everything, obviously those levels differed frequently. For instance, I definitely would say that I ‘enjoyed’ G Gundam more than I ‘liked’ it. Reason being, I consider pacing, directing, and tightness of storytelling to be very important – G Gundam goes against those things – were it another show, I might have outright disliked it. However, there was enough to enjoy about the show that I still loved it. An example in the other direction is Millennium Actress – not to say that I didn’t enjoy it – on the contrary. I greatly enjoyed the film, but even more so I truly ‘liked’ it. It was one of what I would consider by my standards the most perfect films ever created – but that said, I didn’t enjoy it so much that it might have been my favorite movie.

I like it - but maybe I enjoy it just a bit more.

However, those aren’t good examples here because I both liked and enjoyed both of them to an extent, even if one feeling is greater than another – that’s fine, it’s probably true for everything I’ve seen. I’ll certainly be writing a follow-up post about the implications of such on one’s favorites list – but for now, what I really want to look at is shows that I liked in spite of not enjoying at all or enjoyed in spite of not really liking.

So what do you like, but not enjoy?

There are actually a lot of examples of things that I liked in spite of not enjoying, usually because they were works that I recognized what I perceived as value in but could not get personally involved with. Most of these fall into two categories – ‘old’ and ‘arthouse’. Because I am very much a product of my generation, even when I appreciate older things, I sometimes have a hard time getting into them, and likewise I really see the value in and appreciate arthouse shows, but I just can’t connect to them. Some examples would be Assemble Insert, Castle of Cagliostro, and Nineteen19 (for old) and Angel’s Egg (really most of Oshii’s work), Kaiba, and Mind Game (for arthouse.)

The next type is shows that I can appreciate the effort put into and the reasons people would get into them, but just can’t enjoy. The best examples are The Twelve Kingdoms and Crest of the Stars – in both cases, I think they are great shows deserving of their fanbases, but I just can’t handle their genre. But then, I think most interestingly, there are the cases of shows that I really, really like, but that just don’t do anything for me. This is mostly where the visual novel adaptions and stuff come in. The two best examples are Air and True Tears – both are incredibly well-made shows that I would recommend to anyone, but they are just so far outside of my range of interests that there isn’t much for me to actually enjoy about them.

But can you enjoy something you don’t like?

On the other side of the coin, it’s much harder to find shows that I enjoyed in spite of not liking. As I mentioned at the start, I am not very tolerant of bullshit from shows, and even if my enjoyment outweighs my liking as it does with G Gundam, there is always still enough liking there that I couldn’t put it into this category. However, the one kind of show that I can really say I enjoy without liking is ‘trash’ or ‘awesomely bad’ stuff.

If you don't enjoy it, you have no soul. If you like it, you have no brain.

Of course, the crowning example of this is Garzey’s Wing. It’s probably one of the worst OVAs ever produced but if you tell me that you’re up for a watching, I’ll have that disk in so fast your heart skips a beat. Garzey’s Wing is a complete blast to watch, precisely because it’s so bad. Does that mean I forgive it? Hell no. It’s still terrible no matter how you look at it, but it’s terrible and fun all at once.

I can also apply this to shows that don’t really have much appeal to me, but are fun to watch. Elfen Lied is a good example – it’s not really a good show by any stretch, in my opinion, but I nonetheless can’t say that watching insane amounts of turboviolence isn’t fun. I could put most porn in here too – there is some porn that I genuinely like, but most of it is fucking horrid.

I think this category would be easier to fill, though, for someone with less broad standards. Even if I look at a show that I know is stupid like Sengoku Basara, it does so much that I would deem ‘right’ that it’s stupidity isn’t seen as a problem so much to me. Like G Gundam, I like it too much to judge it by my stronger enjoyment.

Anyway, I think it’s a pretty fun exercise to go through your shows you’ve seen and think about how much you like them versus how much you enjoy them. And I’ll next be posting about it’s implications on favorites lists.

17 thoughts on “Getting Into The Bones of the Like vs. Enjoy Conflict – It Exists, You Have It

  1. I think you’re more specific about it than I am, and this is a good thing I think.

    I would really like to rewatch really old stuff like Space Battleship Yamato, or Space Captain Harlock — and I feel like I would like these anyway despite failing to enjoy the shows through its dated animation and dated storytelling (I think watching these can be quite painful and boring). For me it will mean that I get to know the roots of the shows I do both like and enjoy.

    Same thing with monster of the week super robot shows. I enjoyed these as a child and I wouldn’t enjoy watching these now, but I like them for their contributions to my own ‘story’ as a fan.

    • Perfect examples, which I didn’t list cuz I didn’t scour my whole MAL, but SPC Harlock is the perfect example of a show that I’m watching and I really, really like it, but I cannot derive enjoyment from it.

  2. My friend, I’m afraid I’ll have to give this post a thumbs down, simply because you almost make Garzey’s Wing sound appealing. Garzey’s Wing is so bad you can’t even enjoy it ironically.

  3. I said something similar in the comments over on the original post as well, but the main point here is simply the distinction between what you might consider a show’s “objective qualities” vs. your own emotional response to it. In other words, it’s an explanation for the “I recognize this show is well-made, but I’m not really getting into it” syndrome. Or on an even broader level, “it’s good, but just not for me”.

    I think part of this comes back to the medium vs. genre issue. Anime is a very diverse medium that covers a wide variety of different genres and styles. But people sometimes think (usually incorrectly) that just because they enjoy some anime that they consider “objectively well-made” that they should enjoy other “well-made” anime simply because… well, because they’re “well-made anime”. But really, you’ve got to leave allowance for personal preference in there; enjoyment is based, at least equally if not more so, on totally subjective personal factors.

    Just how willing you are to sit through shows that you “appreciate, but don’t really enjoy” probably also depends a lot on personal factors, including the reason you watch anime in the first place. If you’re just watching to be entertained, then there’s little benefit in doing these sorts of (what might be seen as) intellectual pursuits. But for people who fancy themselves as connoisseurs or critics, having a wide range of experience in as many genres as possible is important. Some people also believe that, if they watch “good shows” outside of their favoured genres, they may come to enjoy those other genres as well. (Personally, I think “learn to appreciate” is the more likely outcome there.) Some others want to watch whatever shows are popular so they can be part of the discussion and see what the fuss is about, even if it normally wouldn’t be “their thing”. And others still also just have a policy of not dropping any shows ever. Whatever works, I suppose.

    As for the other way around — shows you enjoy, but recognize are still flawed — I personally think people spend way too much time defending themselves over this. There are all these concepts like “guilty pleasures” or “liking something ironically” that just seem like wastes of time to me. I guess, here too, it depends on your goal; if your goal in watching anime is to be entertained, then any show that entertains you is a success, full stop. There’s a secondary conversation that can happen about the technical execution, but all that technique just flows from an overall goal of making a story that entertains its audience. Enjoyment first, reflection/analysis second, and no need for guilt — that’s, at least, what makes most sense to me.

    Personally speaking, I have a hard time identifying any show that I appreciated without really enjoying, but this may be because I’m really only here to enjoy what I watch. If I don’t enjoy it, I move on to something else. I’m sure that means I don’t have as wide and broad of an exposure to the anime medium overall, but I’ve never run out of things to watch (and, in fact have a huge backlog). But I guess it’s a matter of finding what works for each person individually.

    • The thing is, you have to be really really careful about trying to distinguish ‘objective’ factors. There are objective factors as far as technicality goes, such as the technical quality of art and animation and in some cases, pacing. However, it is literally impossible to objectively qualify ‘good writing’ or ‘good characters’ or ‘good story.’ That’s what I mean by ‘like’ – it fits your standards, but there is no ‘universal standard.’ After all, I’ve heard a lot of people try to state that Eden of the East has ‘good writing’ and I think that’s total fucking bullshit, but then I also think that Kure-nai is the most well-written anime ever made, and very few people seem to agree.

      As long as we make the distinction that there is no real ‘objectivity’ but just ‘personal standards’, then I agree with what you’re saying.

  4. I must have really goddamned good luck, because all the stuff I’ve seen and finished I liked.

    I have really open standards, I guess.

  5. I think these days especially, there’s a lot of ironic, “so bad it’s good” material floating around. For example, exploitation films from the 70s were usually pretty darn bad. But when I see Mad TV’s “Bride of Funkenstein,” or Rob Zombie’s short clip “Werewolf Women of the SS,” I find it all quite entertaining in its awfulness. I wouldn’t say that this is the case for all enjoy+dislike shows, but your example of Garzey’s Wing seems to fit. And depending on who you ask, Sengoku Basara would too.

    • It really comes from, these days, the ‘cult’ fanbase thing. I think we’ve reached a point now where we only really produce good, okay, and bad things, and anything that is ‘awesomely bad’ is that way on purpose. It’s extremely rare to see an unintentionally awesomely bad thing come out these days (The Room is one rare and popular example) as most of the people doing it deliberately are people who really love to watch the awesomely bad stuff that used to exist. For instance, Funeral really likes cheesy, horrible movies when they are funny, and as such, he really wants to make at least one cheesy, horrible, but fun movie.

  6. I’ve often made the distinction between anime I enjoy vs anime I think are particularly good (but I would usually say I “like” both). For example, I like Mushishi but I love Kannagi. I think Mushishi is a better quality show in terms of uniqueness and creativity, but I personally enjoy Kannagi more. If asked, I would say I like both but that I like Kannagi better. I always make a note, when making posts of favorites lists, that I’m discussing anime that I personally enjoy and not what I think are the best quality.

    I’m not quite sure from your post if you think this distinction is a good or bad thing. Sorry, perhaps I misunderstood something.

    • It’s fine. What I’m saying is, you ‘enjoy’ Kannagi more and you ‘like’ Mushishi more – not using the regular meaning of the word ‘like’. The reason I don’t want you to say it’s the ‘best quality’ is that ‘best quality’ is all in your head. It’s what YOU consider to be the ‘best quality’ by a set of rules inherent in your judgement. That’s why I’d rather you say ‘best quality by my standards’ which is what I’m referring to as ‘like’ as a separate entity from ‘enjoy’. Follow?

      • I think I understand a little better. I’ve been going by the standard definition of “enjoy” and “like,” meaning if someone asked me, I would say I like and enjoy both Kannagi and Mushishi, but I like and respect Mushishi for such and such reason, while I like and enjoy Kannagi for such and such reason. But your definition of “like” makes it easier to create a distinction between the two. I’ll have to look over my favorites and give it more thought =)

  7. So is ‘like’ synonymous with ‘respect’ in the above cases? I agree with your statement for the most part but I think a more specific word needs to be picked for the ‘like’ half of the argument. Something along the lines of respect might work. I also feel there is more of a grey area between the two. I feel hard pressed to think of a show that I ‘liked’ by your definition that I didn’t also ‘enjoy’. Finding stuff I ‘enjoyed’ that I didn’t ‘like’ was much easier. I agree maybe someone with less broad tastes would be able to find the distinction better.

    • Yeah, I only used ‘like’ as a carry-over from Ghostlightning’s own post, but maybe for my purposes, respect would be a better word. Howver, that would have me leaving out his own points, since I’m sure he doesn’t ‘respect’ Zeta Gundam…

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