Looking at the MyAnimeList page for Akashic Records was like an out-of-body experience. I clicked on it because it was the most popular non-sequel on the seasonal chart, and the sense of deja vu it gave me for Fall 2015 was palpable. School uniforms with midriffs and garter belts, three straight episode thumbnails of tsundere blushing in front of a chalkboard–(actually, all four images are in front of a chalkboard, which is particularly mind-numbing). Genres listed: action, magic, fantasy, and school. Source: light novel, as if I had to tell you.
I would have to be a total fucking idiot to watch this show. That’s not to say that anyone who watches it is an idiot–I’m sure a lot of people will really enjoy this show and have a great time with it; but as the author of the nine-hundred-part series, The Asterisk War Sucks, I think it’s pretty clear that this isn’t my kind of show, and that I should stay far, far away from it.
But that’s not as easy a decision for me to make as you might think. I’ve long made a point to at least try out every single new show which debuts, on the off-chance that it’s nothing like what it seems, and that everyone talking about it sees it differently from how I would; those things have happened before. But really, I’ve been doing this for more than long enough to be pretty fucking sure about this show–yet, even then, there’s another element to it in the fact that I’m also a career anime talking-about-guy.
I can’t remember the last time I dropped a show without someone messaging me to tell me that I ought to give it a second chance because some really interesting stuff happens later; even though I made like an hour of videos trying to explain how you can usually tell if you’re going to like a show after the first episode. I’ve been doing a weekly podcast in which Best Guy Ever and I watch each episode of Eromanga-sensei just to rip on it for kicks, and even though we’ve consistently complained about every single conceivable aspect of the series, I still get comments assuring me that I’m totally gonna end up liking the show by the end because of some stuff that happens later in the novels. Yeah, sorry if I’m doubtful that a series which I despise on every conceivable level is going to magically win me over in the end.
I get a lot of this because I talk about anime to a big audience, but it’s not just me who sees stuff like this constantly. When I look at forum discussions, I consistently see people reassuring one-another that they shouldn’t have dropped this or that show–or that if you watched it again or looked at it a little harder you’d notice its untold depths of merit which will surely change your mind about the series.
Well, look, I’m gonna make this easy on all of you: I think that just about every show has merit; and, on some level or in some way, is good. Take a step back for a moment and think about how rare it is for the general anime populace to really, actually hate a show. Looking through the seasonal charts on MAL, it is unfathomably rare for a full-length TV series to have a score below a 6–which, by my metric, is a positive score. The only time I ever see stuff in the 4 and 5 range is when it’s a short series that just doesn’t offer enough for the audience to feel any attachment to it, or is very cheaply made and terrible. Scores below a four are exceedingly rare.
For someone to score something above a five, it must mean that they appreciated at least something about the show, even if they didn’t necessarily like it all that much–and if you click on one of these six-out-of-ten shows and rummage through it’s stats, you’ll almost always find it on a few dozen or even a few hundred favorites lists, with some 10/10 scores.
Point being that the idea of a show which literally no one loves or gets anything deeper out of than their peers is practically inane. And that makes perfect sense! Because, shit, it’s not like the people making these shows are a bunch of incompetent idiots. They must have gone through with making them because they thought that there’d be an audience who’d appreciate them, or else they wouldn’t gamble all the money and manpower that it takes to make the damn things.
And of course, this cuts both ways. Out of the tens of thousands of anime listed on MAL, less than fifteen of them are ranked above a 9–most of those being different permutations of Gintama–and a bit over 500 are ranked above an 8, with boatloads of those being sequels which only fans of the original would watch and rate in the first place. Thus, the overwhelming majority of anime listed on this site is scored between a 6 and an 8. That includes 2 of my personal top 10 favorite anime: shows that I would consider among the very greatest anime ever made; and that’s totally fine, because it just means that they don’t appeal to everyone as much as they do to me.
There is no such thing as a universally beloved piece of art. Your Name is the highest-rated anime on MAL, and even it has 2,500 people who scored it below a six–no less than thirty of whom saw fit to write reviews explaining themselves.
So if there’s no anime that’s for everyone, and also virtually no anime that’s for no one, then where does this desperation come from for others to recognize what’s good about your show? I think it comes from this weird feeling that we sometimes get where we need our show to be recognized for what we see in it. When someone tells us that they didn’t like our show, we start wondering if there’s something wrong with us for liking it, or if something’s wrong with them for not liking it, even though we know that taste is a thing and that everyone has it because, like, of course–that’s obvious, isn’t it? And yet there’s still this compulsion when someone’s shitting on our show to beg them to look at it differently and realize that there’s more to it than they think.
But if I’m here to preach something in this video, it’s for everyone to chill out and just like or don’t like what you like or don’t like. Talk about it, sure, but don’t worry about if others feel the same way. When I wrote about Girlish Number or Maidragon, I didn’t expect anyone to change their mind about the shows or even to appreciate the things that I did about them–I just wanted others to understand why someone might have liked them; to recognize the existence of someone who feels this way about things, and who is hardly alone in that. Likewise when I tore into Scum’s Wish; which is obviously a good show to a hell of a lot of people, but just not to me.
And to all the people who beg me to give another shot at a show that I dropped in the first five minutes because it pissed me off for some esoteric personal reason, I present the following:
Exhibit A: My On-Hold list. This is a list of over 130 shows that I watched at least one episode of, concluded that I liked them enough to continue, and still haven’t gotten back to.
Exhibit B: My Plan-to Watch list. This is a list of over 130 shows that I know enough about to be interested in watching, and still haven’t gotten around to.
Exhibit C: Eureka Seven. This was my favorite anime from 2007 through 2011, and I haven’t rewatched it in like eight years because it’s fifty episodes long. I’d really like to know if it would make it onto my top 10 list if I watched it today.
There are two possibilities which await me in my future: either humanity is going to find the path to immortality within my lifetime, and I’ll still work too much and have too many different interests to ever watch all of the shows that I want to because in a post-scarcity world everyone will be making art constantly; or I’m going to die long before I get around to consuming every single piece of art which I might find something to like about. In the meantime, I’m going to choose my priorities carefully, and skip out on Akashic Records for now.
Since you’ve chosen to spend some of your limited time on this earth watching my youtube videos, I’d really appreciate it if you could contribute to their continued existence. I’ve just made a huge change to my patreon, moving it to a monthly payment system so that it can fund a greater variety of content across all of my channels, and I’m also offering exclusive podcast shows and livestreams as backer rewards now; so if you’ve never checked out the patreon before, now is a great time to give it a gander! Check out my other channels for more alternative content and, as always, thanks again for watching–I’ll see you in the next one!