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.
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.
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.