Joining me for this commentary is anime blog seniority, 2DT of 2-D Teleidoscope.
Analytism: I have been reading blogs for a while now and whilst the pool of blogs I do read is not expansive, there is definitely a huge array of topics covered among them. A lot of these topics are of the meta kind; that is, they are posts which seek to address the hidden or perhaps ‘deeper’ meaning of anime . However, after a conversation with a friend, I started to wonder whether such a practise was really what it says it is. My friend claimed that actually, any kind of meta-analysis is ultimately pointless if not simply misguided – anime is not meant to have hidden meanings nor be subject to vast arrays of philosophical dissection, it is primarily about entertainment and for the most part, any intention of the author is almost always expressed at face value. What (he claimed) we actually get, is a self-referential discussion about themes largely not present in the show and attempts often degrade into pseudo-philosophical ramblings.
2DT – The most common sin of writing is forgetting the readers. Analysis isn’t such a bad thing, really – By all means, if you want to indulge, you can psychoanalyze the secret meaning of Shinji Ikari’s cello all the livelong day. It’s just that most people find that sort of thing dull to read.
So they won’t. That’s reality. But then you’re just a very smart person shouting in an empty room, and then what good are you?
Analytism: Quite a strong start however, as ironic as it is in the context of this post, let’s examine the sides. I would say that generally, apart from the various conglomerates of Haruhiism and the more recent Church of Madoka, the anime community doesn’t tend to follow in unison nor does it have any kind of unified or static measure of what is, or isn’t worthy of being detailed. We have quite a variety of tastes and blogs that tailor to all manner of audiences and expressions. However, I would say my friend raises a very interesting point. Certainly, people do tend to saturate anime much more so than is perhaps intended by the original author. However, who is to say that this is necessarily wrong? Whilst this might seem quite spurious a claim, I would argue, perhaps the authors intention is completely void when it comes to dissection? Most analysis of academic works comes posthumous – it is therefore mainly down to us, the readers/viewers, to examine these works and comment on any purported deeper meaning. Whilst yes, authors do have intentions and they are for all intents and purposes made clear to the reader, deep examination is often not something objective – it varies wildly between readers and viewers. To paraphrase what my English teacher would often say “There is no right answer. As long as you can justify and back up what you say, then it is considered a valid idea”. But, is this really the right way to look at it?
2DT– I think what matters isn’t that we “back up” or “justify” everything we say. This isn’t academia; we already have that outside the ‘net. Blogging is first and foremost a relationship. What matters is that our words resonate, that they pluck some lovely string of truth in someone who isn’t us.
Analytism: I think 2DT makes a really good point here.I’ve seen a meta-analysis of Evangelion entitled “Evangelion: Meditations on First Philosophy”. What does this even mean? What does a depressed boy in a mecha have to do with the rationalist movement or the metaphysics of Cartesian dogma? Not only did they then continue to fail to elucidate on any meaningful part of the borrowed title from René Descartes but they failed to actually liken the title to anything their essay. Even worse, they paralleled Shinji and Descartés as Solopsists – a position which his philosophy rejected. It irks me when academic material is used ubiquitously, as quasi-intellectual jargon in a bid to give extremely deep meaning to something that bears no relation to the terminology. Why use terms which we have no knowledge of or are just completely meaningless? Even ignoring all of that academic mumbo jumbo, as 2DT said, what is it ultimately for – if it only satisfies us? The point of blogging is to engage with others, to have them hear your views, and in turn facilitate discussion in the hopes that other people thought and felt like you. If we go to the extreme, we risk completely alienating our readers.
2DT – Right. What I’m getting at is this: Solid arguments are nice. They’re sturdy, and logical, and they look like good writing. But when you’re talking about what we anime bloggers do, that by itself is poison. Truth helps, but it isn’t everything. We can’t close our words in loops of rhetorical perfection.
Analytism: Despite this attack on meta-analysis, and whilst I find people quoting Derrida in whatever postmodernist interpretation they have of the philosophy of GAR; preposterous, (what does GAR have to do with postmodernism?) I wouldn’t say there is no place for deeper analysis. Some anime do genuinely have philosophical or psychological themes. To try to watch Ghost in the Shell or Serial Experiment Lain, without gleaning some sort of philosophical talk, would be to miss some of its message. Anime doesn’t have to be devoid of deeper meaning nor am I saying we shouldn’t look for it but, let’s be sensible and moderate with our exposition. It isn’t always about being academic or writing a thesis, a philosophy can be personal, inspired or even just a common place belief/ emotion evoked from the show – this can be in turn relayed to your readers. This boils down to two reasons for me: 1) The body of analysis is completely dependent on audience and 2) anime as a media form should be free and open to interpretation. In regards to reason one, I would say (especially blogs) that audience is key when making such commentaries. Some people will appreciate an in-depth analysis of anime and will look for more intellectual outlooks on shows – whilst others would find that off putting. As 2DT highlights very early on in this piece, it seems that what we should or shouldn’t talk about depends on who we want to talk to about such things. If you want to talk to like-minded philosophy bofs, then I guess you need to bof your commentary with some philosophy and vice versa. You’ll either be thought too simple to waste time with or too contrived to relate with. And reason two is that anime, like any other medium of expression be it reading, film or even music, should also be allowed freedom of speculation. This freedom should extend to whatever complex thoughts you have on an anime but also to whatever morals, beliefs or emotions you want to relate to readers.
2DT – Rather than unearthing hidden patterns for their own sake, we should aim to connect, to make people sit up and go, “I’ve had this same feeling!” That, more than anything, validates what we do.
Analytism: Given all these all things, I guess it spring to my mind that I do actually favour people doing meta-analyses on anime. Whilst earlier points implied that such analyses may become completely off base, I guess my view boils down to the words of a certain anime blogger I read a while back named Akira:
“I’m not saying we should ban all deep talk on anime and glare at 2D breasts all day, but we must be prudent not to over-analyse things into the realm of ridiculousness.”
I think people should be free to have their interpretations. We shouldn’t think that anyone disagreeing with our interpretation (however complex or simple) is automatically shallow minded or wrong, but I think it’s also important to keep in mind the chances of such complex abstractions arising naturally from a medium (anime) that pertains to the layman i.e. the average viewer – not philosophers or psychologists. Whilst it may be appropriate sometimes, academia shouldn’t be the focus of a meta commentary on anime. As anime bloggers, surely the crucial part of blogging is not to dominate readers into apathy, but to comment in such a way that relates our views personally but is also accessible to others? Anime blogging is a community after all, rather than a academic journal. Last thoughts, 2DT?
2DT – Last thoughts… Okay, how about this: We are, all of us, but a moment’s entertainment. Strive to be enjoyable.
Many thanks to 2DT for joining me in this post.