Building up anime experience.

This is just a thought I had recently after doing some reading, so figured I’d articulate it here.

It’s about building up experience watching anime and how that affects our perception and judgement of the anime we watch.

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Something I’ve realized over the past few years of reading anime reviews on WordPress is that I feel like I can figure out fairly accurately whether someone is new to watching anime or not. I could be wrong, but I feel like I’m often not.

Basically, I’ve noticed that people who are newer to watching anime seem to be much more generous with their reviews. I even get the impression sometimes that there is no anime they would dislike, although that’s not necessarily the case. The point is that I feel like people who haven’t yet watched many anime tend to really get fired up about whatever they’re watching, even if from my perspective, it’s an average (or below) anime.

This isn’t just something I’ve realized from reading reviews though, because I know for a fact that I was the exact same way when I started watching anime. For the first several years I was watching anything and everything, and it felt like no matter what I watched, everything was amazing. But then as years went on and on, I began to develop more refined preferences, and better identify what I did and didn’t like. The number of anime that felt like a “10” slowly decreased, until the average anime was just a “7”. Even if that “7” was previously a “10” in my mind.

Of the ~500 anime I’ve watched, I’d say that I’ve re-watched at least 200 of them. Revisiting and reevaluating my old opinions and impressions of an anime is nothing new to me. And of course, I’ve noticed that many anime that I once thought were great, I didn’t think were as great the second time through, even if I still enjoyed them. D-Frag! was a good example of that, because I loved it the first time, and the second time, I thought it was just good, not great.

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The reason for this is simply that there is a big difference between then and now – I have more anime to compare to now. Comparisons are a very important aspect to our ability to judge something’s quality. If I’ve never seen or played a video game before, and someone hands me an original copy of Tetris, Tetris then becomes the baseline for what I define as a video game. But as I play more and more games, I begin to identify more and more nuances and differences between video games, and am able to use them to better formulate what I like and dislike in a video game.

Anime is no different. When we watch a slice of life anime for the first time, all we know of the genre is that single anime. And so it’s difficult to really nail down what’s done right, what isn’t, what we liked, what we disliked, and so on in a slice of life anime. But if we’ve seen 50 slice of life anime, well now it’s much easier for us to discern those things. There are so many qualities that we often pull from when judging or reviewing an anime based on our past experiences with other anime.

Characters, genres, sub-genres, tropes, jokes, animation, et cetera. Someone who has a lot of experience to pull from will find it easier to make connections between what they’re watching and what they’ve watched. Statements like “this reminds me of _____”, or “this is a worse ______”, or “so and so reminds me of ______” are quite common from what I’ve seen in reviews. And it’s only natural that we would pull from our past experiences in order to better define our opinions on something new to us.

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Anime is really no different from anything else in that regard. There’s the video game example I gave earlier, but then there’s also one that I thought was good which is that of a wine connoisseur. The wine connoisseur is someone who enjoys wine, and essentially drinks it as a hobby (or career). Not just one type / vintage, but many. The wine connoisseur tastes wines of all kinds, and as a result, is more able to put the differences between types / vintages into words, and is better able to define their own preferences.

Those of us who have countless hours of anime under our belts are basically just that – anime connoisseurs.

I remember I used to think on how I wished I could go back to when I started out watching anime, when I could watch anything and love it. But I’ve realized that thanks to all of the experience I’ve gained watching anime, I’m just more able to identify what I like and dislike now, and why.

This is something that I feel like we can pick up on in a review – the reviewer’s anime experience. Perhaps it’s not always obvious, but generally, I feel like I can form a good idea as to how experienced the reviewer is based on how their review is written. At least when it comes to newer anime watchers.

I feel like there definitely are diminishing returns on how much new experience affects our opinions and tastes. Like the difference between having seen 1 and 5 slice of life anime versus having seen 50 and 75 slice of life anime.


Anyways, that was just the thought that I had.

What do you all think?
Have you noticed any reviews that you thought were maybe written by someone who is newer to anime?
And have you noticed your own tastes in anime becoming more refined over time?

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

18 thoughts on “Building up anime experience.

  1. Definitely an interesting discussion. I think experience is extremely important. As you said, it establishes a baseline. We have no way of knowing whether we would just like the genre, or the series, for instance, until we watch more. And the more we watch, the more we’ll learn about our specific likes and dislikes and what series manage to stand out from the pack.

    The only thing I often dislike about this is when people try to invalidate your opinion based on how much anime you’ve seen. With sites like MAL being around, tracking your anime has become part of the experience in a way. While watching more series certainly makes you more knowledgeable about a topic, I don’t think it should ever trample on someone else’s views just because they are at a different point in their journey than the other person might be.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that being inexperienced is a bad thing, because we are all at that stage at some point. But it is nice to gain that experience and recognize that we have developed a better idea of both what to expect from anime, and what our personal tastes are. Which is important to keep us going and watching anime, because it can be easy to burn out (even from anime) if we aren’t careful or self-aware enough of these things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure the style of review is necessarily a good baseline in every case, to be fair. I mean, I can get pretty excited about a fair few series and try to find something to enjoy in pretty much every one I watch. It doesn’t always work, but mostly, I can enjoy something for what it is. Which is why my scores in reviews can sometimes seem a little generous. At the same time, I’ve been watching anime since the 90s. Late 80s of we inside stuff I didn’t know was anime as a kid. Experience taught me my general tastes, but I still prefer to approach anime as excitedly as possible.

    That being said, without experience, you don’t have too much to compare to in terms of genre, studio, etc. Experience certainly helps make our tastes more focused, I think. Like, we’ll find that handful of genre x shows we love, but generally prefer genre y, even though there are less shows in y that we love, just more that we enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s just excitement, but more this underlying tone of “this can do no wrong”, if that makes sense. It’s harder to pick apart an anime if you haven’t seen very many, so I’ve read several reviews that just have that sort of feel to them. Like the reviewer just didn’t have much to draw from.

      And yeah, I feel like moving towards and refining our personal tastes is ultimately a good thing so that we can continue watching anime and not burn out, by having a general idea of what to watch. Or even just having our priorities straight, because there’s nothing wrong with watching something we are unsure about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get what you mean. I do think more experience in the genre does give you more to draw from.

        Absolutely. They’re are so many shows airing, at least having an idea of your own general likes makes it easier to pick and choose when short on time. Trying stuff you aren’t sure about is a good thing too. I’ve found some really fun series that way.

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  3. So am I really a connoisseur of fine anime? Or is that a kind way of saying one becomes jaded?

    What I’ve noticed is that no matter how many new anime I watch there are a few that never lose their magic. I suppose that is what makes a classic? But then, it has been a while since I’ve seen a new classic emerge. Is that because anime has changed or because I’ve changed?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You could definitely look at it that way I think. But then, becoming jaded is inevitable, because once we’ve experienced the best anime has to offer, it’s impossible to disconnect all of the other series we watch from comparisons to what we consider the best. Once we know what we want, it’s disappointing to not get it, so to speak.

      Maybe there’s a firm definition, but the idea of a classic seems to vary. I would objectively consider Evangelion a classic, even though I disliked it. But I personally also consider Clannad a classic, even though I’m sure many others wouldn’t.

      Hard to say where the change lies, but I also think that usually it takes time for an anime to cement itself as a classic. I never saw Demon Slayer and haven’t heard anyone refer to it as a classic, but maybe 10 years from now that’s exactly what it’ll be considered. But then, some maybe already do consider it one.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I wonder if the arrival of a series you’d consider a classic is cyclical?

      For me, I’m seeing about one season every 1 or 2 years becoming something I can watch over and over. Zombie Land Saga is the most recent, I think, though there are some contenders that I’ll need to time to test. Before that, it was probably Re:CREATORS.

      Some make no sense — like Infinite Stratos. Why the heck do I like that series so much?

      But it did teach me one thing: My innate desire to rate things is a complete waste of my time. I’d love to grade a series on the mechanics, like plot, character, and the like. But in the final analysis, what I like has nothing to do with those things — or, more precisely, is likely only loosely related to them.

      I think solving that will probably help me write better material…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with the synopsis of this review, partly because I know for a fact I lived this myself. Up until 2017, most of the anime I watched were Japanese editions of shows I watched dubbed as a kid – Digimon Adventure, Yu-Gi-Oh, Kirby of the Stars, etc. For a while even I told myself “This is the only stuff I’ll watch”. Enter Evangelion, and my life changed after that – now I’ve picked up a whole new genre and acquired a new standard for what I see as a solid anime, and the shift in taste occured.

    Even when I started this blog I could see from my older posts how awkward they were written simply because of my relative inexperience to anime, compared to now where it’s like I’ve seen plenty so I know what to write about and expect. Kind of like a machine learning algorithm in software.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was the exact same way haha. Up until I was in university, around 2013, I had only seen anime like you mention. YuGiOh, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon… but then I finally stumbled upon something other than those mainstream anime we saw as a kid, Vandread, and the whole world of anime opened up for me.

      For me I had already seen maybe 200-300 anime when I started my blog, but it wasn’t until I started reviewing anime that I learned how to better articulate my thoughts on anime. Before that, I would sort of just leave an anime with a general impression of whether I liked or disliked it, maybe with some basic reasons, but nothing further than that. Maybe blogging / writing about anime also contributes to our experience.

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  5. God, am I curious on what people think of my anime views based on my posts.

    Regardless, I think that the more time you spend watching anime, the more aware you are of what works and what doesn’t. You can drop series you know won’t be for you faster, and focus more on stuff you like. I wouldn’t say my tastes have become more elitist, whatever that means, but I have been able to curate what I care and don’t care for easily.

    However that shouldn’t stop people for watching stuff they may not like. To challenge their views and preconceived notions. For example, I might have smugly dismissed Wonder Egg a few years back, but that idea of ‘let’s see what’s here’ made me go through with it, and I’m better for it. Same with shows like Love, Chunibiyo, and even things like Yosuga no Sora.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess elitism would be if the product of someone enforcing their own refined opinions on others. I don’t think you can really be elitist towards yourself, right? I mean it sounds snobby for me to keep using the word, but I can’t think of a better one than just “refinement” to describe the process.

      And I guess it just comes down to the individual if they want to challenge their views or not. There’s probably at least a single CGDCT anime out there that I would enjoy, but I’m not about to wade through the genre to find it if I don’t have to haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting question. I wonder — maybe there’s more than one way to interpret the data you started with?

    For example: I began reviewing anime after I’d watched a couple hundred series. The count now trails your by a bit (well, if you count series I dropped, I’m pushing 500). But I started reviewing anime after decades of consuming all sorts of fiction — 19th century, modern fantasy, classic and modern science fiction, and others. I even read “Instructions of Shuruppak” because it’s the oldest work I could find a translation for.

    So, my opinion on anime didn’t change much, from my first review to my most current, simply because I’d already consume so much fiction.

    Well, there might be one change. Fred mentioned the possibility of becoming jaded. I’ve seen that in myself, as well as a tendency to become cynical. So, I force myself to look for things to celebrate.

    I think the path you described might fit someone who’s not only starting out with anime, but is starting out with the consumption of fiction in general. There’re probably other starting points that you could trace, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I mean, I feel like it’s more about when you start watching anime, not when you start writing reviews. I also didn’t start reviewing until a couple hundred series in, although I definitely have refined my opinions since my first reviews.

      I don’t share the experience in terms of fiction in general at all though. I’ve read countless fiction novels and watched many non-anime shows prior to getting into anime, but the experience isn’t quite the same. There’s a lot of flair and distinctive tropes and such that I haven’t seen anywhere but anime (I don’t read manga).

      There’s definitely a difference between one’s first shounen anime even, and someone’s thousandth episode of shounen (across multiple series), one that I don’t see any number of novels having an effect on. In my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see anime as a type of fiction. So, the tropes common in fiction also appear in anime (like the ani-hero or the wise old man). Anime as a genre is similar to science fiction in that it is a specific type of fiction, itself with many sub-genres (like, as you mentioned, shounen). Anime as a whole uses some tropes more often than outside of anime, but I really can’t think of anime-only tropes.

        It could well be that one becomes burned out on yet another display of the dead parent trope, but at least in my experience, how well the trope fits the story and how well it’s executed is what’s important. That’s also true outside of anime.

        I think I see what you’re getting out in your last paragraph, but for me, the impact of the 1000th science fiction novel (say, within the space opera sub-genre) is relatively the same as the 1000th ecchi anime (say, of the harem sub-genre). It all depends on how well the tropes (and plot and character and etc.) are executed. Since I started watching anime with a body of experience in various fiction (including Disney, Ralph Bakshi, Tex Avery, etc.), the experience was for me equivalent.

        Or maybe I missed the point. That’s entirely possible. It’s been another long week…

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      2. I see what you mean. In theory there’s nothing exclusive to anime, although personally there are many I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s certainly true that the storytelling aspect of anime is no different from anything else, and considering I would divide experience up based on genre, you could see overlap with non-anime fiction. I feel like it’s easier to see in some genres than others, like a sci-fi versus a slice of life or CGDCT. But yeah, I understand what you mean.

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  7. I like the “anime connoisseur” but yeah I think judging people on the amount animes they watch is bad. But I get your just talking about varying levels of anime experience to help us understand your thoughts. I like that about this post and I can see my taste in anime change over the years too. Lately after starting a podcast with my sister we’ve tried watching new animes any chance we get. I do get those moments where I’m like “this like that other anime…” or “this style reminds of that…” When those moments come up I try to think about what the anime has that the other one I’m comparing it to. Though my tendencies to compare do get the best of me. I do try to view each anime with an unbiased perspective.

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    1. Yeah, I wouldn’t judge someone based on how much anime they’ve seen.

      But, I can see how someone who is new to anime could think of an experienced anime viewer’s review as elitist, and conversely, an experienced anime viewer could think of a new anime viewer’s review as naive.

      I can even see that in myself, because the me from five years ago would probably consider the me of today as a little elitist or overly critical. But obviously I don’t think that of myself now, I think it’s just that experience has changed how I perceive anime.

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