What Matters in Storytelling: Plot Holes and Other Nonsense
I thought this issue would be something I could make fun of on Twitter and then forget about, but it continues to show up online and offline. At this point, I just want some selfish catharsis. More than ever, I see people focus their criticism on parts of stories (read: anime and movies) that simply do not matter or, at least, matter so little as to be inconsequential. This has always been an issue and probably always will, but I say “more than ever” because I think the kinds of anime and movies that are getting the most attention lately have set themselves up for these kinds of vapid criticisms.
I divided these criticisms that “don’t matter” into two types for the sake of organizational ease. They could (and should) be broken down even further, but since I’m not trying to wage intellectual war or anything, I left them as broad categories. I will be mentioning certain creators by name in this post, but that’s mostly for the sake of example. I’m more concerned with the arguments than the people making them.
I’m presenting the following list of “what doesn’t matter” as factual because I believe it is factual. That doesn’t mean that people are “wrong” for pointing out things that fall under these categories, but that–however true what they’re saying is–it ultimately doesn’t matter for the function of a story. If you want to deny what I’m presenting as fact, that’s fine too. I’m just expressing the rules I follow, not decreeing law. Although it would be cool if I could make it law…
Western anime critics—particularly those featured on Crunchyroll and YouTuube—are now in a position of unchecked power over public opinion. While this is beneficial to the community at large by allowing a rapid dispersion of important or interesting info or criticisms, it is also a weapon prone to misfiring. This misfiring is the result of poor communication, faulty argument, and a general lack of standards. Before I go any further, I want to reiterate that, as with all of these posts, individual creators will be referenced to exemplify my points, but my intention is not to attack or praise them as individuals. I have great respect for anyone who spends time talking about the anime they love/hate. I write this because I respect you all so much. That being said, we have a problem.
To understand the spread and influence of critical opinion and the misfires of the machine that produces these opinions, we can simply look at the r/anime subreddit. Most obviously, comments in reply to any critical content invariably contain instances of users praising said content as truth, as perception-defining, and as final rule. This isn’t anything new. Critics have been influencing public opinion on books, music, politics, etc. for centuries. A basic knowledge of communications or media history could have told you that. I am just arguing that, with so few platforms for visibility, so little history, and such a niched fanbase, this issue is amplified in the anime community. You can read any thread about Erased and see an anonymous Digibro hydra repeat his arguments, oftentimes word-for-word. Cue hegemony, spiral of silence, so on.Read More »
Digibro recently released a video called “On the Need for a Cabal of Anime Gurus”. I think we can (and should) push the word “cabal” aside for now, since the connotations of that word are (or should be) problematic for critics and I don’t think it’s really what Digibro is envisioning. If you haven’t watched the video and are interested in reading this post or discussing this topic, you should go watch it. Anyway, instead of a cabal, I read this video as Digi wanting a mass elevation of the baseline of anime-related knowledge and context. The video implies that this knowledge can be promoted by—and this context should be in relation to—a group of anime YouTubers and bloggers. To use his own words, these creators are all “having different conversations that should be together.”
An immediate thought would be to hyperlink the content of these creators together, either figuratively or literally. Digi himself follows this line of thinking, saying the audience might (as an example) go from one of his videos, to an interview he references, to a video about the person being interviewed, and so on like a kid following a trail of candy. While this is a way to build knowledge and context, I don’t think it’s feasible on a large scale. You may argue that the audience is inherently driven toward knowledge. Anime fans are a niche community, and fans who want critical or historical content are a niche within that niche. While, yes, this super-niche is super-driven, it isn’t driven enough to explore that far past the content it originally wanted to view.Read More »