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December 16, 2012 / Bradley

12 Days of Anime: Autumn 2012: I Am Frequently Wrong and Bad At This Guessing Game

12 Days of Anime is a project about anime in 2012 from bloggers and occasional podcasters. I do both, as evidenced by guesting on another episode of Dynamite in the Brain, this time to preview the upcoming Winter season. This involves a lot of chatter and guesswork about which series will be worth watching. On this Day of Anime, I take a look back at my guessing for the Autumn 2012 podcast.

autumnchart01

I’m flat-out terrible at guessing what I’m going to like based on a chart of cartoons I found on the Internet. I make an effort to go watch as many first episodes as possible, and what I end up settling on often surprise me. This has been true for a long time, but I haven’t had a record before of what I thought I would like. Normally, I just have vague impressions of what surprised me and what didn’t. When I sat down to listen to those projections, I winced a bit. I was sure of myself, but far off from what really happened.

I’m currently following thirteen anime that are airing right now- it was fourteen, but Blast of Tempest became too lame and not ludicrous enough to be worth the time. My favorites that premiered this season- and this changes often-  are Robotics;Notes, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Girls und Panzer. Of those three, the only one I initially thought would be worth watching was JoJo’s. The Strike Witches vibe I was getting from Girls und Panzer put me off, while I still hadn’t forgiven Stuff;Thing for how terrible Madhouse’s adaptation of Chaos;Head was. It turned out that Girls und Panzer has managed to be a lot of fun without being creepy, and Robotics;Notes has been a smart mix of alternate-reality sci-fi, conspiracy theories, and mecha love that has done a lot to win me over, on top of giving me two of my favorite characters in a long time.

I’ve found other anime to enjoy from surprising places. Teekyuu has been a consistently entertaining source of short bites of energetic comedy and animation. Busou Shinki is largely written off everywhere, but I still enjoy it because the mecha designs are neat and its Toy Story riff on tiny robot maids keeps going in unexpected directions. And I can’t remember anyone getting excited for Shin Sekai Yori, but it’s probably the best “literary” anime we’ve had in a while.

I was also off when guessing what my favorites would be. Still high on how great Fate/Zero and Madoka were, I expected great things from Psycho-Pass, and instead got a decent show with wooden dialog and fairly conventional cyberpunk trappings. I still don’t understand how Magi‘s first episode felt so leaden, I whiffed on Lychee Light Club, and Little Busters was all kinds of awful.

I’ve been watching anime for years, and spent most of that time thinking that what’s worth watching and what’s not are fairly obvious just from checking the promotional art and remembering a staff member’s name or two. So how was so I wrong? Some of it has to come down to the bane of bloggers and podcasters: doing actual research. Props to Brian for doing that for each episode, because I didn’t expend much effort and just leaned on what I already knew. Would I have been more bullish on Girls und Panzer if I had known Mizushima, an incredibly consistent director, was helming the project? If I had known that Shin Sekai Yori was based on an award winning novel for teenagers, would I have given it more consideration? And some of it has to come down to factors beyond anyone’s control: there’s no way anyone can consistently guess what’s going to be worth watching every season. Really, the surprise is part of the fun.

This has been a good exercise in knowing what I don’t know, but I think the real lesson to draw from here is that anime still has the potential to be “totally unexpected.” That should encourage some humility, curiosity, and an open mind. It’s also good news for bloggers like myself- there’s still fresh material out there that’s under-served and worth digging for, knowing you can find something worth writing about with patience and a good eye. For a while, I really thought that anime’s capacity to surprise had dried up as the “otaku database” calcified and the need to make money meant making safer projects, and while that isn’t untrue, it might be less of a factor than we think. But that’s a thought for another Day.

12 Days of Music, Day 3:

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3 Comments

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  1. Shinmaru / Dec 17 2012 6:05 am

    I am also bad at guessing, because, for good or ill, anime often ends up being quite different than expected. My normal routine is to go into a season knowing nothing and then dig into stuff if it ends up intriguing me. I try to do a little more of that now since I have a bit more knowledge about the folks who work behind the scenes, though I am still quite ignorant compared to many people. But, hey, the more I learn, the more I enjoy this silliness, so it’s cool!

  2. kViN (@Yuyucow) / Dec 17 2012 4:12 pm

    As much as I like to emphasize the importance of the individuals working on anime, it’s not possible to predict how each and every show will fare. With enough knowledge and research you can get pretty close to it, but there will always be some projects that go in unexpected ways. Magi is a well regarded manga and its adaptation has both talented staff and a considerable budget so it looked like a really safe bet, yet it ended running into severe scheduling issues and got piss-poor direction. Knowledge can help you understand WHY it happened, but guessing it beforehand? We ain’t wizards, yo.
    I’ll have to agree that it’s kind of interesting, though. I hate being wrong about stuff, but cartoons consistently surprising me in spite of all the trivia I’ve piled up on my brain is something that I’m fond of.

  3. Scamp / Dec 17 2012 10:18 pm

    After doing for season previews for 4 years, I’ve learned to cover my ass and never use phrases like “sure fire hit”. That said, I feel like I can predict to near 95% accuracy on what I will like. It’s just that remaining 5% will forever haunt me

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