Every anime fan has to deal with expectations.
This act of both anticipation and prediction starts even before the “anifan” picks up a series to watch. The title, the reputation of the studio(s) responsible for bringing said show to viewers, the trailers, the summary – all of these factors and more collectively form a set of initial expectations for the anifan.
Even if viewers attempt to skip these “hooks,” even if they try to remain impartial, and even if they claim that a series needs to time to develop and show its true colors, some sort of “forecast” will inevitably be made after watching a single episode. When anifans make statements mentioning that a series has either failed to meet, met, or exceeded individual expectations later into the season, anifans are primarily referring to these types of predictions.
Be that as it may, expectations are not inherently good or bad. They occupy a grey space in the viewing experience for any anime fan and are very dependent on individual reaction and response. At times it’s to be ignored and at times it’s to be embraced.
For instance, the anime fan may start to watch a particular series because of its setting. However, the anifan, who had expected certain topics to be broached, may gradually grow both disillusioned and disappointed as the series progresses because the show only makes half-hearted and shallow jabs at the desired topics. Or because all sense of plot, as with all other aspects of the story, is secondary to iyashikei (and moe and slice-of-life).
I believe WeekendOtaku experienced something similar in regards to Ikoku Meiro no Croisée The Animation . However, he also reasonably stated that his own expectations (he had hoped to see a series that featured extensive cultural misunderstandings due to its historical timeframe) should not justify the rebuking of a series simply because it veers off in a different direction (the series in question turned out to be a fluffy story with cute yet underdeveloped characters due to the time constraints dilemma known as “this anime series only received one cour” condition) than he had wanted.
In this regard, the aniblogger recognizes that his valuation of the series should remain unaffected by his expectations, which should largely remain a footnote. As such, the expectations, in this case, are something noted but not largely influential to his appraisal. This is typically what happens when an anifan is both even-handed and fair in regards to assessment. I wish I could say I did the same for some of my earliest anime series reviews since I ended up being excessively rough on certain shows, but I digress.
Unfortunately, such conduct, while not exactly rare, is certainly less common compared to how discussion regarding a series usually pans out. This is particularly prominent if a series proves to be divisive.
As an example to illustrate my point, detractors against Fairy Tail (the manga coincidentally ended relatively recently, by the way!) are prone to calling the series typical shounen fare where the power of teamwork and friendship will always prevail, where power rankings among characters fluctuate relative to their importance within the narrative (plot armor), and where very few characters actually die. Fans of this intellectual property, however, will turn this around by saying, “What else did you expect? What you see is what you get.” As such, fans of said series believes that the viewer’s expectations should essentially define enjoyment, which is a stark contrast to how WeekendOtaku reacted towards Ikoku Meiro.
Therein lies the dilemma. Should anifans embrace expectations of a particular series or should anifans hold expectations at a distance so the viewing experience isn’t diminished? The two cases I’ve provided makes it seem like expectations should only matter when they translate into a net positive for the anime series (i.e. “the series provided exactly what I wanted” or “the series was better than I thought it would be”).
But as with many things, it’s (probably) something that works on a case-by-case basis. The bottom line is that viewers should simply remember that the series will decide on its course and routes and that viewers should let a series be. The reception towards anime series is something different altogether, however, and may or may not be tied in with an anifan’s initial expectations. You can be the judge of that since I don’t believe there’s a golden standard to be followed in every single case.
That’s all for now, folks.
I will try to follow this up with an editorial on comparisons next week. The post I had in mind didn’t work out, sorry.