Archive for July 29th, 2008

In “Defense” of Not Knowing What the Hell “Good” and “Bad” Actually Are


I am totally circle nine. Totally.

So, between Real Drive episodes, I noticed on MAL that IKnight had finished watching Figure 17, which is one of my absolute favorites (I believe it played an early instrumental role in causing me to be into the anime thing long-term) and went to check my RSS feed to see if he’d posted a post about it but instead I noticed between the Strike Witches tea post (I actually drink 100% juice when I want flavored drinks these days, but 90% of the time it’s water) and the totally awesome Legend of Galactic Heroes post (made, of course, because he could) was this post I’d somehow skipped over because I had no idea what “axiology” was, and also because I was at work last I checked the site. I clicked and read, and (of course) it was related to the complicated mess that he and I have actually discussed (never, by the way, talk to me, unless you like getting doctoral theses out of a simple 10-word question that could have been more simply answered “yes” or “no” or “you are an idiot”; if you do, have at it) and things that go through my mind all the time, namely: what is “good” and what is “bad”?

I don’t think I’m at a point in my life where I can tell you the difference. Sure, I can say that Musashi Gundoh was a horrible, awful, terrible series (which is why it has so many 10 votes on every user-ranking database ever), but anything less than that starts to get nebulous. Where does “bad” end and “good” begin? Is there even a recognizable line? Can it even be objectively determined?

I mean, take a look at my MAL anime list (ATM Machine) (this is actually a hilariously unsubtle attempt to raise my anime list views, because I like numbers growing bigger for some reason), I’m glancing over it and almost none of them make any kind of sense to me at all. Toki o Kakeru Shoujo is rated a 10, but so is Simoun, and so is Baccano!, and so is Toward the Terra. Do I know why this is? No, not really; I can justify it with the 100% valid reason that I think they deserve a 10. I can’t even tell you what the hell a rating of 10 even means. The other ratings don’t really make any sense, either; I’m pretty confident that I think they’re 100% appropriate ratings for the series, but how the hell I arrived at that conclusion I’ve no clue. The only standard I ascribe to when assigning a rating is that the score stands not for how perfect I think the series was, but how little I cared how imperfect it was. No work is going to be “perfect”, but we can ignore its imperfections and bask in the glory that is what it does right.

Like Felt-tan, my only grip on sanity is the reassuringly cold and metallic presence of Haro.

And I’m not even going to go into whether or not I have “good taste” or not. I’m pretty sure I have the best taste in anime, music, etc. in the world, as long as you happen to be me, which none of you are. But as I commented to Kaiserpingvin on earlier today “There are only two adjectives for my musical taste: Amazing, or horrible. I waffle between the two of them, myself.” And it’s true–I can go from things like Kalefina – oblivious (which is an amazing Kajiura Yuki song) to MOSAIC.WAV – Naisha Odaku-nyan (which is probably the craziest and best thing they’ve done short of “Moe Spiral! Akibattler Slash!”, which is, of course, the track that precedes it on We Love AKIBA-POP) to the brilliant green – Brownie the Cat to Polysics – I My Me Mine (which is…you should know by now)–in that order, with no “buffer songs” in between them, without batting an eye. It’s perfectly logical. I don’t think it’s incongruent at all. Two of those songs, by all rights and means, should actually be horribly annoying and ear-bleeding–but I love them to death and, if in the mood, will listen to them on repeat, at really loud volumes. Hell, I actually thought Marisa Stole the Precious Thing was an amazing song.

And don’t even get me started on books–my local paper’s literary columnist is accepting submissions for top 10 favorite books lists, and if I can ever sit down and think of a suitably eclectic collection of books that don’t make any sense that the same person would like them all (for instance, putting Battle Royale before The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), you can bet that I’ll be spreading confusion among all the seven people in this general area who read that column.

Of course, having bizarre, nonsensical taste is one thing, but when I am faced with something that is hailed as being Genuinely Good, I’m more often than not less than disinterested. Working in a library, I see lots of (what the quotes on the back say are) quality literary fiction go on and off the shelf as everyone is wowed and amazed by this or that debut novel, but does any of that interest me? No, I get all excited when I see someone pick up a copy of The Eyre Affair, and I’m much more genuinely happy to link someone up with a romance novel with a trashy awesome cover than to show someone where the Dave Eggers books are kept (all over the place, apparently). I’d rather spend ten minutes hunting down a copy of Inu-Yasha volume umpteen million (and I don’t really like Inu-Yasha!) than ten seconds showing someone where The Name of the Rose is. My general rule is: if the ad copy of the book tries to tell me how meaningful and important the book is before (or, all too often, instead of) telling me what the book is actually about, I generally just put it back on the shelf and forget about it.

This is as confusing as the concepts I am trying to not think about too much and failing, except this is because of a temporal impossibility!

This happens in anime, too, of course (I’d never spend a whole post on an anime blog and not talk about anime at all!); I’ve famously quoted to people that I’ll get back to watching more than one episode of Kaiba “sometime” (in one instance, “this weekend”, the weekend in question being two months ago), but I just…can’t. I watched the first epiosde and actually sat there and was impressed by Yuasa’s directing skills, and I loved the visual style–but that’s it. I didn’t connect with Kaiba himself (who, by all rights, I should, him being a stranger in a strange land) and, while I understood exactly what Yuasa was trying to get me to feel, I didn’t actually feel it–I just recognized that he was going for it, and it failed. In all seriousness, I don’t like Kaiba for the same reason I don’t particularly like Strike Witches–neither of them really get me interested in the characters or the events onscreen. They’re totally different series, of course, and it’s a somewhat unfair comparison–but I’d say that, on a strictly subjective and personal note, that the bigger failure of the two is Kaiba, because Yuasa was trying to pull me in emotionally into a story, and it didn’t work. In the case of Strike Witches, I don’t think it was even trying very hard to grip the viewer in an emotional stranglehold that wouldn’t let up, so since I perceive its lack of interesting (to me) elements as not in the scope of the series’ intent, I’m not too bothered by its failure. And–just for symmetry’s sake–I think Shimeda is an amazing artist.

That doesn’t mean I don’t support Yuasa, because I think we need anime like that; it’s up for debate whether or not we need more anime like Strike Witches, but it’s a moot point because that’s what producers think we want, and so we will get them, and in all honesty I’d rather there be a few series like Strike Witches (except maybe better), because mindless entertainment is excellent for recharging mental batteries.

I think I was going to have a point in this post, somewhere, but it doesn’t really have one. Either I actually have terrible taste and I’m simply deluding myself, or I’ve accepted that quality is in the eye of the beholder, and what I think is super-amazing and awesome someone else will find humdrum and boring–some might even say generic. But I don’t really get bothered about people not liking what I like, as long as they aren’t total jerkbags about it. Which can be rare, sometimes.


Pretend that the cell phone is actually symbolic of horrendously complicated philosophical subjects (such as, for instance, this one), and that I, personified by my Lucky Star avatar Tsukasa, am busily fumbling around with it and trying to make it work. Not depicted: the part where “Tsukasa” takes the “cell phone”, throws it across the room, then runs over and jumps on it for a while, and then picks up the remains, places them in a plastic bag, gets out a rolling pin, and proceeds to roll the “cell phone” into very fine metaphorical dust before taking the remains to a really big hill and scattering the fragments to the four winds, forever ridding the planet of the hideous presence of the “cell phone” menace. “Tsukasa” returns, is welcomed as a hero, and is given carrot cake. With delicious cream cheese frosting. She eats it. It is delicious. Mmm, cake.



I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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July 2008