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Moe Check! » In Defense of Personal Taste

Annoyed Yuki.

It's fairly well-known among my friends, both online and whatever Real Life anime fans I've managed to locate, that my tastes in anime are somewhat skewed, shall we say, towards the more moe part of the anime spectrum. In fact, it's become something of a running joke: if it features female characters who look cute and a little on the young side, it immediately becomes "the sort of anime DK likes". And yes, "stay away from the loli" jokes abound.

I play along, of course. It's what friends do.

Several people have attempted to sway my tastes over to other genres. "Watch this," they say. "If you don't like it, there's something wrong with you." "This", in far, far too many cases, usually turns out to be something I don't, in fact, like. So, is there something wrong with me? How would one define "something wrong"?

Saves time.

A chance comment, along with a line in an anime, made my brain travel down a side path, through the dark and treacherous forest of Speculation and Opinion. The chance comment was: "We need to get you to watch more guy anime."

The line from the anime is in the first episode of Super Robot Wars: Original Generation. I make it a point to watch at least the first episode of anime from a new anime season, unless it's patently Not For Me (say, intense blood and gore), and I generally dismiss about half or more of the listed series after that. One of the series I dismissed (well, I gave it another episode, then dismissed it) was SRW:OG, and for this, I was lambasted by a surprising number of people. I'm not sure whether it's that or something else that gives me a bad "feeling", kind of a residual memory of an unpleasant emotional sensation, when I hear the line spoken by the main character (to his sister) near the beginning of the first episode: "I guess you can't understand it. Mecha are a guy's romance!"

And he's right. I can't understand it, even though I'm supposedly in The Target Audience, being, well, a guy. What most "guy anime" (which includes, but is not limited to, the shounen anime genre) generally involve are lots of action, violence, and general Manliness. The quality of gar, so to speak. ("Gar", if you're unfamiliar with the term, is used to describe a male character who is so MANLY and AWESOME that straight male viewers will admit that they may well turn gay for that character, based solely on sheer MANLINESS. The textbook example, and indeed the root origin of the term, is Archer from Fate/Stay Night.) I've never felt gar towards any character, ever. I don't grok gar, and this is probably why I do not like Guy Anime.

Now, I know that someone will point this out, so I'll pre-empt it: yes, the previous statement was a generalization. There is the very real and distinct possibility that I will find a Guy Anime that I like, for whatever reason. I'm going to qualify that statement with the rather more probable reason that I like the anime for something else other than gar-ness. Yet, I do not know this for certain.

There's a whole thorny bramble path waiting for me when I try to explain why I like some things, and not others. Sometimes I resort to appealing to the questioner's imagination: there is a graph, a measuring chart, plotted with n axes, where n is an unknown number that is nevertheless quite high. Each of the axes of this graph is labeled with a certain aspect of the show, such as art style, music, plot, moe factor, cheerfulness, coherence, intelligence, so on and so forth. Now, there is a region, somewhere on this graph, which represents My Interests. Shows that fall into that region, based on all those aspects, are therefore shows that I will probably like. Shows that fall outside that region are shows that I will probably not like. There are a few outliers, to be sure, and the region itself has an odd shape; I might like a show even if the music is generic and forgettable, if the moe factor is high. But if the music is truly abominable, then no amount of moe will make me like the show.

Sharp-eyed (and very patient) readers may have noticed the flaw in this: there is no way for me to even begin to guess how many axes there are, and what they all signify, and where in the graph this region of Relevant To My Interests lies.

It's entirely a matter of taste. What seems to cause a lot of problems, though, is that many people assume that if I say that I don't like something, then that means that I think that it is bad in some way, and then they feel the need to defend it. In a way, I don't blame them; I've seen a lot of reviews and blog posts where someone says that they don't like something, and then proceed to bash and demean the show, the fans, and their taste in the show. However, I don't do that; if I say I don't like something, that's exactly what I mean: I don't like it. Whether the show is actually good or bad, objectively speaking, is only incidental at most to my liking or otherwise of it. I've freely admitted countless times that a show may be good, but is simply not for me.

This seems to confuse people far more than I think it should.

Next, there is the matter of liking something, but not liking it that much. The first example that comes to mind is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. If you're unaware of the Haruhi craze (highly improbable, considering the nature of this page, but still possible, so I'll play it safe), MoHS has a very vocal fandom, which may make the actual size of the fandom hard to gauge, but let's just say that while I count MoHS among my absolute favourite anime of all time, sometimes I'd rather not be associated with certain viewpoints among other fans, simply because I do not share them. And yet I get lumped in with the rest, without regard for, well, personal taste. I'm sure a great deal of it is popularity backlash, undeserved or otherwise: Naruto or Pokemon fans (and a few years back, Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon fans) will probably understand. I like the show, but for my own reasons, just like everyone else.

We're going to be enthusiastic about the series. We're going to say that we like it. It's what fans do.

Is there something wrong with me? Obviously, I'm going to say no, but then I'm a biased observer. I'm resigned to the probability that I'm the only one among my anime-watching peers who likes the things I like, and dislikes the things other people try to get me to like. I've never been a very forceful person (this may be an understatement worthy of extended ridicule), and I usually don't try to push my own tastes onto others. I don't evangelize anime or moe. And I'm not sure whether to hold my tongue when I see a thread asking for anime recommendations, since invariably the thread is soon filled with suggestions for what other people like (commendable idea), but seldom with any real explanation about why these shows are suggested. As such, I restrain myself to simply supplying further details about shows already recommended, rather than speaking my own piece.

So, after all this sound and fury, what does it all boil down to? It's actually fairly simple, and rather obvious. I just wanted to fill up the space with my random ramblings.

I like what I like, I dislike what I dislike, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

I've been repeating that concept ever since I got into fandoms in general. I can only hope that some of it has spread.

6 Responses to “In Defense of Personal Taste”
  1. Avisch says:

    I was never skeptical about the Haruhi craze. I like that it's getting a second season. But I also would not like to get "lumped with the rest". I like the series. But I'm not as crazy about the show as most.

  2. badger11 says:

    I think I understand where your coming from. I don't know of any anime viewer who isn't biased to some degree. The people I know who like a show that I didn't can't understand why I don't. If it doesn't interest me, then I'm not going to watch it. If you're going to make the investment of your time, you should spend it on shows that you like.

    And I'm guilty of rattling off shows I like without explaining why I like them when someone asks for a suggestion.

  3. Kunami says:

    At the fear of sounding like some blind, crazed supporter, I agree with most everything you've stated here. In particular, I found myself nodding in knowing agreement when I read over this part:

    "I’ve freely admitted countless times that a show may be good, but is simply not for me. This seems to confuse people far more than I think it should."

    I do not understand, myself, how it is so hard for someone to understand that interests can work apart from a bipolar system. Why everything has to either be liked or disliked, good or bad, right or wrong… this is something I don't think I'll ever fully grasp. I've said many a time to people, yeah, that's a good anime, and it's something I think you may enjoy, but I didn't care for it myself. For whatever reason, this always requires further explanation.

  4. Crisis_vyper says:

    Well said indeed.

    Just watch what you want to watch and be happy about it. For me my taste is in the romantic comedy action mecha kinda thing (although each one can be altered to mix or drop one of the elements, but always comedy and/or action must be in it.

    Moe is really nice as it really conveys the brighter happier side of life. Stories like NGE and Gantz are meant to be admired as an artwork artistic kinda story, while stories like MOHS are meant to be laughed at.It all depends whether or not you want to go mainstream for a specific genre of anime or not.

    Some stories are outright crappy for some people but other people may think of it as the best anime ever. I have that alot of times and everytime when my friend borrowed my animes, they will go like your animes are just weird (range from stupid to way more awesome that what they watch).

    So watch your moe with pride. Your blog actually introduced me to some of the more better animes/games that I know so far.

  5. Crisis_vyper says:

    Well said indeed.

    Just watch what you want to watch and be happy about it. For me my taste is in the romantic comedy action mecha weird epic kinda thing (although each one can be altered to mix or drop one of the elements, but always comedy and/or action must be in it.)

    Moe is really nice as it really conveys the brighter happier side of life. Stories like NGE and Gantz are meant to be admired as an artwork artistic kinda story, while stories like MOHS are meant to be laughed at.It all depends whether or not you want to go mainstream for a specific genre of anime or not.

    Some stories are outright crappy for some people but other people may think of it as the best anime ever. I have that alot of times and everytime when my friend borrowed my animes, they will go like your animes are just weird (range from stupid to way more awesome that what they watch).

    So watch your moe with pride. Your blog actually introduced me to some of the more better animes/games that I know so far.

  6. Venus Rozen Power says:

    For me Maho Shojos are very special, since they were the first kind of animes that I saw in my life. Everything began with Sailor Moon, then it came Cardcaptor Sakura, and then I had so many Maho Shojos at my disposition that I didn't know where and when I had to start. The reason for this are most probably:
    The palette that this productions use (I've always liked fauvist and impresionist colors), the character's relationships, the romance, the pretty girls (I´m not a fanboy) and the girl's powers (I can tolerate attack sequences, yes I'm that strong) and their costumes. Something that shonens don't have and that's why I don´t like them very much, that's why Neo Genesis Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist and Naruto are boring series to me, with the only exceptions being Trigun and Inuyasha. And I don't care if my friends still call Maho Shojos as "Stupid Girls programs" these shows are excelent and special by themselves and I would stop watching Anime if they disappeared.

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