July 11, 2007

Stop playing on my lawn!

I think I'm becoming a grumpy old man. ("Becoming?" Shaddup. And get off my lawn!)

If Pixy ever gives us custom spam-kill phrase lists, the very first phrase that's going into mine is "you might want to consider". I've received more stupid, inappropriate, and/or unwanted advice prefaced in that way than I really want to remember. And more often than not when someone offers me advice about some anime series "you might want to consider" it's turned out to be something I would really hate.

Way back in the depths of time, when I first started out watching anime, one time I actively solicited suggestions for things I should watch. Here's the resulting list, as I originally posted it, complete with mistakes, typos, duplications all uncorrected:

Ah, My Goddess, Akira, Armitage II Polymatrix, BoogiePop Phantom, Bubble Gum Crisis, Card Captor Sakura, Castle in the Sky, Castle of Cagliostro, Catnapped, Cowboy Bebop series, Crest of the Stars, Dragon-half, FLCL, Galaxy Express 999, Gasaraki, Ghost in the SHell, Grave of the Fireflies, Gunsmith Cats, Hack Sign, Hakkenden, Hanabei Renmei, Hoshi no Koe, Kiki's Delivery Service, Kisshin Corp, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Macross Plus, Miyu, My Neighbor Totoro, Nadeshiko, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Night on the Intergalactic Railroad, Ninja Scroll, Outlaw Star, Perfect Blue, Porco Rosso, Rah Xephon, RahXephon, Read or Die, Record of the Lodoss Wars, Revolutionary Girl: Utena, Rune Soldier, Rurouni Kenshin, Rurouni Kenshin, Saber Marionette J, Serial Experiments Lain, Sherlock Hound, Spirited Away, Tenchi Muyo, The Big O, The Crimson Pig, The Slayers, Those who hunt Elves, Trigun, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Voices of a Distant Star, Wings of Honneamise, Witchhunter Robin

That was four years ago, and I didn't know anything about anime then. Now I do. Shall we go through the list?

*Ah, My Goddess -- the recommendation was for the OVA, which was drenched in angst. Blech.
*Akira -- a spectacle, but ultimately an empty one.
Armitage III Polymatrix -- grim and gritty
BoogiePop Phantom -- really grim and gritty. (Also dead girls?)
Bubblegum Crisis -- gizmo obsession
*Card Captor Sakura -- one of the best
*Castle in the Sky -- my least favorite Miyazaki film
*Castle of Cagliostro -- ...except maybe for this one
Catnapped -- A Miyazaki film without Miyazaki. Not interested
*Cowboy Bebop series -- Impressive but flawed, and I hated the ending
*Crest of the Stars -- one of my favorites
*Dragon-half -- GAD did this suck!
FLCL -- Excel saga with twice the amphetamine and half the wit
Galaxy Express 999 -- Old, iconic, but I've never been interested. (Not R1)
*Gasaraki -- utterly stunk. Who wrote this dreck?
*Ghost in the Shell -- the movie knocked my socks off.
Grave of the Fireflies -- concentrated suicidal depression on a DVD. Keep it away from me!
Gunsmith Cats -- silly and fun and out of print, alas
*Hack Sign -- five characters in search of something to talk about.
Hakkenden -- I suppose it might be OK but I'm not interested
*Haibane Renmei -- The single best anime I've ever seen.
Hoshi no Koe -- aka "Voices of a distant star" is legendary but not for me
*Kiki's Delivery Service -- One of Miyazaki's better films
Kisshin Corp -- You can't be serious. Nazis allied with aliens, opposed by teenage mecha pilots?
*Macross Plus -- gizmo obsession
Miyu -- I think this was "Vampire Princess Miyu". grim and gritty
*My Neighbor Totoro -- Another of Miyazaki's best
*Nadeshiko -- as in "Martian Successor". One of my favorite series
*Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind -- Early Miyazaki. Not totally successful IMHO.
*Neon Genesis Evangelion -- What's there to say that hasn't already been said?
Night on the Galactic Railroad -- doesn't really tempt me
Ninja Scroll -- grim and gritty
Outlaw Star -- Didn't I see this live-action? ("Blakes Seven"?)
Perfect Blue -- grim and gritty, probably dead girls
*Porco Rosso -- Middling Miyazaki
RahXephon -- gizmo obsession
*Read or Die -- R.O.D The TV was stupid; this one is supposed to be worse
Record of the Lodoss Wars -- Somebody's D&D game turned into anime
Revolutionary Girl: Utena -- I've been told it's pretty strange. Angsty
*Rune Soldier -- Started good but didn't live up to the promise. "See you next time" ending, but no next time
Rurouni Kenshin -- grim and gritty
*Saber Marionette J -- brain dead, obnoxious characters, no redeeming features
*Serial Experiments Lain -- a monumental work, but difficult to classify. Also difficult to watch.
Sherlock Hound --  Not really my cup of tea. Kids only, pretty much.
*Spirited Away -- Yet more Miyazaki
*Tenchi Muyo -- The original OVAs were decent.
The Big O -- Wow! A series about a giant mecha! I've never heard of anything like that before...
*The Slayers -- I watched the first two series, and they weren't bad. But they also weren't great.
*Those who hunt Elves -- was just entirely too silly.
Trigun -- Vash the Stampede, the gazillion dollar man. I'm told the ending gets dark.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust -- I really don't like vampire stories. grim and gritty
Wings of Honneamise -- not interested, not curious
Witchhunter Robin -- grim and gritty

So to summarize: there were 53 titles on this list, every one of which was recommended by one of my readers. Of those I eventually bought 27, about half (marked with asterisks). Of those 27, I was glad that I bought 11, and really felt ripped off by about 11. Of the ones I didn't buy, I now know enough to know that I wouldn't like nearly all of them. So my readers overall batted about .200 on their recommendations.

And consider what was missing: Noir, Shingu, Banner of the Stars, Angelic Layer, Sugar, Dirty Pair, Divergence Eve (being broadcast at that time), Sakura Wars, Vandread.

For all practical purposes, those heart-felt pieces of advice were no better than a dice roll would have been at selecting things which I eventually was glad I watched. And that's been my experience ever since: as a practical matter, audience recommendations for titles I "might want to consider" have been utterly useless, far more likely to be wrong than right at predicting audience (me) satisfaction.

It got worse as time went on. Not only was it the case that the titles in question were unlikely to be of interest to me, but as I got more experienced they were also highly likely to be redundant. The titles proffered to me as things I "might want to consider" were usually things I had already considered and consciously rejected. Eventually I started my "future series" list in order to stop that.

But even when they were not redundant, those recommendations usually were useless. Some of it is that tastes do vary quite a lot, and someone else may like something that I would not and vice versa. But some of it is that a lot of those suggestions were actually "This is a title I've hear mention of" rather than "This is something I myself have watched all the way through and really thought was top drawer". For instance, I don't believe that anyone who actually watched "Dragonhalf" could recommend it in good conscience.

So I've gotten to the point where it sets my teeth on edge whenever someone tells me I "might want to consider" something, no matter what it is. Grrr...

(And get off my lawn, you stupid kids!)

UPDATE: Ani-nouto responds. I'd just like to clarify that my short descriptions on the "Future Series" page were always intended to be mnemonics for why I myself wasn't interested. They were never intended to be capsule reviews, since of course I can't review something I've never seen.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 12:54 PM | Comments (20) | Add Comment
Post contains 1299 words, total size 8 kb.

1 So would "grim and gritty", together with "gizmo obsession", be a good thing? I can't really tell from the post, but I'm assuming it's positive.

Posted by: Owen S at July 11, 2007 01:37 PM (EfsJj)

2 As I write this, the "future series" link goes to the reviews page.

Owen, read the actual future series page for your explanation.

Posted by: Jeremy Bowers at July 11, 2007 01:42 PM (fjT38)


Link fixed.

"Gizmo obsession" and "grim and gritty" are bad things.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 11, 2007 02:01 PM (+rSRq)

4 Ah. I feel greatly enlightened after reading that. Didn't know about the link. Noted.

Posted by: Owen S at July 11, 2007 02:05 PM (EfsJj)

5 Well, now I'm glad I didn't post my "you might want to consider" getting a (quite inexpensive) window or (somewhat more expensive) portable air conditioner response to your post down below about it being hot enough to make you shut down your server.

BTW Gunsmith Cats really is a lot of fun; the irony of its location in this armpit of the nation (Chicago, in the state of Ill Annoy) was exceptionally fun given what hizzoner and his pocket puppet state legislators are constantly trying to do (now _thats_ grim and gritty).

Posted by: Rich Jordan at July 11, 2007 02:20 PM (UiqOa)

6 I started watching anime not much before you did (in terms of number of series watched anyway) and it's been interesting tracking my developing tastes with yours.

I think I was one of the ones who suggested Haibane--and I consider myself well repayed with Sugar.

Other than that, our tastes diverge strongly, although there seems to be a very large overlap in stuff that's not worth bothering with. Your list of turn-offs  turns out to be very close to mine--and the turn-ons aren't too far off..

What I have learned is that I can very often tell which series I should avoid and which I should watch based on your reviews--regardless of whether or not we agree. Somehow, you manage to convey exactly the information I need to make that decision.

And your discussions of the good shows' characters and plots is unparalleled. Valuable insights, always.

Posted by: refugee at July 11, 2007 02:51 PM (ya+0h)


I'm amazed RACS sold Gunsmith Cats completely out.  The anime is probably something you'd like, but you might want to stear clear of the manga if you don't like the grim'n'gritties (one word: backstory).  Have you tried on Overstock or Half<dot>com?  Or even ::shudder:: Best Buy's site?  Could've sworn I'd seen it on the shelves just in the last month or two.

About the categorizations, I actually like the grim/gritty and the gizmos - if they serve the larger story.  Problem is when they don't, and I'll admit getting burned from time to time.  Semi-related, Big O isn't about the mecha, but then we'll have to agree to disagree on it.  I do want to point out that the writer on it was the same guy who did Serial Experiments Lain, but that's probably just digging the argument deeper.  The point is that most people recommend what they like, hoping that the recommendee will, too.  In defense of the lack of Noir, it probably was 'cause ADV did no favors in its "promotion" of the show while it was coming out on DVD the first time around (during which, your list was made).  Bandai did the same thing with Banner/Crest of the Stars; I'd never heard of it until you plugged it on the old site.  Seriously though, where are all the comedy recommendations?  Didn't any of those folks like to laugh?

Posted by: Rich at July 11, 2007 03:52 PM (KAAD2)


And Rich responds to this post by... (wait for it) offering me advice.


Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 11, 2007 03:56 PM (+rSRq)

9 Ditto refugee's point. Your tastes and mine don't totally overlap (quelle suprise) but the reviews are always interesting and very informative. Haibane Renmei is something I never would have picked up from a mere description, but definitely a four-star in my book.

Posted by: Jeremy Bowers at July 11, 2007 04:03 PM (cX2wU)


I have always been aware (apparently unlike some folks) that different people have different tastes, and my goal in writing my reviews was to provide information that would permit someone whose tastes were different than mine to decide whether they might be interested in it.

I'm sure I don't always succeed in doing that, but that has always been one of the goals.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 11, 2007 04:15 PM (+rSRq)

11 Some folks just have no judgment.  The funny thing was DrHeinous remarked "you and Steven seem to like your animé light, sweet, and fluffy, and I prefer mine darker."  I asked him to lay off the glue -- Sugar is just not my speed, I can barely stand Miyazaki at his best, Bottle Fairies is a no-go, and Cardcaptor Sakura was just.... enh.  I see the quality, I just wasn't enthralled by it.

On the other hand, I've finally reorganized my animé collection. Maybe I should post on that...

Posted by: ubu roi at July 11, 2007 04:18 PM (6Gqgi)

12 Given I have alot less anime exposure than SDB, I have tried to limit any advice on my part to information about series that have come up.  For instance, I can confirm that you almost certainly *won't* like Trigun.  The ending isn't dark; its reasonably upbeat and hopefully.  Its the half season immediate *before* that, that is dark, very dark.

Posted by: metaphysician at July 11, 2007 04:50 PM (lXszF)

13 Sorry, Steve.  Obviously missed the point.  Does Pixy's template have a "delete comment" button?

Posted by: Rich at July 11, 2007 04:57 PM (KAAD2)


Does Pixy's template have a "delete comment" button?

Yes, for me. No, for you.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 11, 2007 04:58 PM (+rSRq)

15 Hence my first rule of anime:  the odds of any two otaku having completely identical tastes in anime is statistically insignificant.  The secret is to have reviewers you can trust and are prolific enough and provide enough explanation that you know where your tastes diverge.  I trusted Steven enough to look seriously at Shingu, especially with corroborating evidence from other people he'd persuaded.  I was not disappointed.

I have friends that like seriously campy (read: BAD) anime series, and persist on trying to get me to watch them.  I have learned to avoid this, but I have learned through experience that some people will recommend anything (or, rather, that there's nothing so bad that someone will not recommend I watch it).

Posted by: Civilis at July 11, 2007 05:58 PM (G7QX5)

16 I've found you a very reliable reviewer; when you say a show is good, it's good.  That doesn't always mean I'll like it, but when you say a show is good and it's the sort of show I like (e.g. Sugar), then you're batting at least .750.
For instance, I don't believe that anyone who actually watched "Dragonhalf" could recommend it in good conscience.
Hee hee! 

I watched it.  I liked it.  But that was back in 1995 or thereabouts.  Would I recommend it now, 12 years later?  Probably not.

Yum, tamago, tamago!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 11, 2007 06:39 PM (PiXy!)

17 Oh, and custom spam lists are in; I just need to finish testing them and enable them in the management interface.  So you'll soon get your chance.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 11, 2007 06:41 PM (PiXy!)

18 No offense was intended

Posted by: Brickmuppet at July 11, 2007 10:00 PM (73lWn)


Don't bother, D... he explained to me, once upon a time, why he'll never watch another AMV again (he did, once upon a time), and the reasoning is sound, I suppose. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 11, 2007 10:23 PM (6YRS5)


Folks, why is it that so many of you are interpreting this post of mine as a plea for you all to argue against me and change my mind?

Thread closed.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 11, 2007 10:39 PM (+rSRq)

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Also, I hate unsolicited suggestions and advice. (Even when you think you're being funny.)

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