The answer is simple and easy: effort into giving the fans what they want!
As much as I like to pick apart what makes an anime terrible and call your favorite series shit, I’m not a one-sided idiot who can’t see the other side of the coin when it counts. I wouldn’t be able to write my Tribute From a Hater stuff if I didn’t. I tend to only briefly focus on the positives when I bash something because it doesn’t flow well with the review, nor is it all that funny, when I try to shoehorn praise in. However, I do get the appeal. I’m just not the kind of person who digs into that kind of appeal, given my intolerance to anime that try to be grand whilst playing it safe at the same time.
To show I get the appeal, why I don’t talk about a few popular products in the Chinese cartoon industry?
First, let’s look at the most popular and well-loved (in a sense) anime of 2012, Sword Art Online. Almost everyone on the blogosphere hates this show, and if you’ve read my blog long enough, you’d know my feelings. Yet for some reason, it’s the most popular anime to come out of 2012 (aside from Fate/Zero and Nisemonogatari). Why? Well, that’s because it panders to the right audience. But pandering by itself isn’t enough to make SAO stand out amongst the crowd, as there are countless light novels out there that pander to the biggest demographics around. So what does it do?
I’ll let E. Minor speak for me for a bit.
So yes, the reason that SAO is so terrible, and yet so popular, isn’t just because it heavily panders to the audience. It’s because of how well-constructed that pandering is. Whilst the story is shit and feminism rights were set back 50 years thanks to what happened with Asuna and Suguha, the target audience won’t care because of one man: Kirito. He does everything teenage boys want to do in real life, but can never do, so they look to him as a symbol. And so much effort is put onto making him the perfect portrayal of wish-fulfillment from wearing black to injecting two years worth of semen into the hottest girl around that it’s no wonder why he’s got so many favorites on MAL. All that other stuff like world-building and shit that Dennou Coil did so much better? Just a backdrop to aid in that portrayal.
Don’t get me wrong, SAO is poorly-written. But it’s not so much that the author is lazy, as much as he keeps on focusing all his effort on the wrong things when it comes to his writing.
Going on to Key stuff, what appealed to many people about Clannad isn’t so much the fact that it comes from a company that focuses mostly on melodrama and sad girls. If that was the case, Da Capo wouldn’t be so hated amongst all sides of the anime community with hardly any fans to be found. What made Clannad popular was how well-constructed the drama was to the point that you could tell the writers knew what they were doing. Not once have I seen a negative review of Clannad that didn’t complain about the core premise itself. Yes, it involves a lot of retarded girls falling in love with a jackass with clever lines. Yes, it involves him saving them in a wish fulfillment manner. But that’s what the fans want and Clannad and its other Key counterparts achieve those goals far better than any other similar VN-based work because it isn’t lazy when it comes to its goals.
Okay, there are some complaints regarding how the translation from VN to anime format went, but otherwise, the only real problem most people have with Key in general is the kind of drama they choose to use (magic melodrama that isn’t relatable in the slightest). Otherwise they never try to do anything more than they can handle (most of the time), always make sure to put their all into making their stuff appeal to the fans, and execute it competently. In fact, Jun Maeda put so much effort into making his stories as well-writtenly sad as possible that he ended up suffering from depression himself to the point he barely contributes to Key anymore. And boy did that affect the sales when it came to Key’s newest game, Rewrite, which sold a measly 30-40K initially (Key stuff is usually in the 100K) because without Maeda around, they decided to tone down the melodrama and focus more on fantasy battles (yes, you heard me right). Yeah, cool stuff doesn’t sell when it’s not what the fans want. Fuck you fans! And this is coming from someone who doesn’t have much of a problem with Key.
On the opposite side of the coin, we have the Monogatari series, which is basically the polar opposite when it comes to Key in representing the harem genre. Instead of trying to window-dress its roots with niceness and moe, Monogatari flat-out exploits it. The girls are always finding excuses to be naked, but Shaft goes out of its way to not make the nudity as pathetic as Highschool DxD, Under the Innocent Sky (Oretachi for all you weeaboos), or Heaven’s Lost Property (no, exploding panties are not funny!) by using specific angles and cuts to just the right parts of the female skin we want to see. And of course, throw in smart wordplay and supernatural elements that are specifically used to enhance the harem angle whilst not being intrusive to anything else. Yes, it’s a smutty harem series. It just happens to be really clever in how the harem is formed, and it’s really good at making girls sexy and weird fetishes seem normal (yes I’ll admit the toothbrush scene was awesome). Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny that it knows its audience loves Senjougahara and cat girls.
Only real problem with the Monogatari series that doesn’t have to do with the concept and its wasted potential (at least according to Nekomonogatari) is that the stories are getting repetitive. Hey, Nision. Repeating the same story over and over dooms you, no matter how well-executed it is. You know that right? Hopefully, the next Monogatari series actually shakes things up. You know, besides introducing toothbrushes.
Not a fan of shoujo? Well you don’t have to be to understand why Kimi Ni Todoke is such a well-loved series. I’m not going to bother going into full detail about this one, as I only saw one episode of it. But if you read any positive review of it on MAL or ask a shoujo fan why Kimi Ni Todoke is so good, you’ll definitely get an earful. From what I gather, it’s because it pushes the shoujo buttons in all the right ways whilst adding a unique charm to it. So it’s like Maison Ikkoku except more girly? I can buy that. Although that doesn’t excuse those cost-saving scenes.
Want to see a yuri series that is more than just lazy jokes? Look no further than Simoun. It definitely has some interesting stuff beyond the standard cliches of the yuri genre and the animation is great, aside from those awful CG machines. Want to see religious stuff that speaks out to you? Watch a Happy Science movie. You may not like them, but you cannot deny the love that went into making them. Although I guess you could accuse them of trying too hard. And not making sense. But it converts people somehow, so what the fuck?
Do I really need to mention the Miyazaki movies? No? Okay.
As for Deadman Wonderland…well, it only got really popular when it aired on Adult Swim and hit them really hard with its mindless violence, rampant swearing, and all that other shit the AS audience loves. Otherwise, it was poorly-received in Japan because it didn’t put any effort into anything it tried to do. Seriously, I’ve seen live-action Japanese movies with more creativity than that! So don’t wish for a sequel, because it won’t happen.
Now I know what you guys are saying. Most of those anime you mentioned aren’t bad. Well I certainly think some of them are, but I’m just listing a bunch of really popular series with huge fan bases, personal views be damned. Besides, every single thing I’ve mentioned (with maybe the exception of Simoun, as I don’t hear much negativity for that one) has its share of haters. Hell, I’ve got a couple of “bad” anime in my favorites list that I think are legitimately good, but I can understand why people would be turned off by them. One man’s junk (get your minds out of the gutter) is another man’s treasure, you know?
Let’s end with this trailer of Makoto Shinkai’s newest film. Tell me that you’re not going to see this just based on how awesome it looks. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of Shinkai. Nevertheless, whilst I don’t consider him to be a great writer, I never consider him to be lazy. How can I say that about a man who works so hard to deliver high-quality art anime like this (who wants to bet he was the staff for most of this project as well)? How can anyone who’s into anime not appreciate that artwork? I’m not going into this movie expecting to like it, because this looks like another one of his love stories. But he’s popular for a reason, and as an anime fan, I must watch the film when it comes out regardless of my biases.
Besides it’s got Hana Kanazawa, who is currently voicing the moe-est of them all. That’s worth the price of admission alone (aka, that’s worth an illegal download that I don’t have to pay for).
- I’ll get the Rahxephon TBH out someday. Life’s been busy as hell lately.
- Yes, I know Maeda recently came out of his depression and is working on another game. Hopefully it’s that rumored Angel Beats game, because I really think he needs to stay away from future projects from now on, regardless of what the fans want.
- Simoun requires a post on its own to explain my problems with it, but first I’m going to have to rewatch it.
- I have no idea if Rewrite is a good fantasy story or not, so don’t get your hopes up for it (although it’s got to be better than the other Key stuff, right?)