Expectations, Anime, and You

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.

22 thoughts on “Expectations, Anime, and You

  1. Great topic and fantastic write up! Although I think tempering expectations is an issue with most mediums (and most everything really) – it takes on a particular form when dealing with something like anime which can still be subject to a lot of stereotypes and prejudice, and as such expectations become very precise with a lot less wiggle room.
    This is where I consider myself somewhat lucky to be rather cut off from anime fan culture t large since I tend to go into shows knowing exactly one thing – the title…I have ended up watching a lot of crap though – and enjoyed an embarrassing amount of it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      Mmm it definitely isn’t exclusive to anime, but it’s a little different in such cases, isn’t it? Arguments and beliefs over anime can get a little intense!

      Mmm, that’s definitely a blessing. I’m of the opinion that a lot of anime fans have thin hides (myself included but I’m trying to improve). So good on you for liking what you like!! Don’t let others tell you what to enjoy!


  2. Expect disappointment and you won’t be disappointed!

    That’s frickin pessimistic though so let’s not do that.

    Great editorial on a fascinating topic. I sometimes tend to not even fully read anime summaries to avoid spoilers but the truth is that I usually have some idea of what’s up with a series before taking it up. You’re right about expectations not being inherently bad. But then, we always see hyped shows get bashed almost solely because the hype led to heavy expectations. And obscure shows get praised to hell and back for the virtue of being hidden gems. Guess it’s always going to be a trap most of us will fall into whether or not we want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that’s one way to get through life as well as media and mediums we enjoy!

      Thank you. Mmm I skim, too. Still, knowing how everything unfolds is a bit much.
      I’m happy you brought up hype backlash and hidden gems since they are very good examples about expectations being either surpassed or…not surpassed!

      Mmm we will have to be careful about it. Not only as the audience but also as reviewers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I think that it’s pretty much inevetable to watch a series or movie without any form of expectation. You point it out very well. Yiu might read about the plot either in a post or a description of the show, and your mind is already beginning to form a certain sense of the series. It’s the same with reviews. The Dark Tower movie that is out right now has recieved so much negative press, that I am inclined not to go. Because I already expect it to be bad. But with an Animeseries I have had so many different experiences. I’ve seen shows that are very slow to start (Coppelion is one for instance), and then turn into something awesome (which at that point I did not expect). But the same can be said for series that start off terrific (Kado for example), and then end it on a less than stellar note. Real shame. But that’s why our subconscious mind usually tries to form an expectation. It’s pretty much impossible to not watch without expectations, but it’s the balancing act that you need to be able to perform. With too high expectation you will always end up being disappointed…and if it’s too low, you might even avoid something.
    This was a terrific post….looking forward to the follow up 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmm expectations are inevitable but what’s important is balance.

      Thank you for the insightful comment (I might have to check out Coppelion one day). Hopefully I can actually follow up haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s definitely hard to balance. Sometimes, not being what you were expecting makes for an excellent surprise. On the other hand, if someone was in the mood for a fun magical girl series and didn’t know anything about Madoka Magica, they might be disappointed because it’s not what they were hoping to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is difficult.

      To go along with that Madoka example, some people might even be excited to see what happens because this wasn’t what they expected. Again, your mileage may vary. Individuality is interesting in that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I usually try to not get to much expectations about a series by fear to be disappointed. I will still read comments about series and watch PV, but in the end I will still try to keep a clear mind about it no matter what the other think since what I like is not necessarily what other would like. If I ever have some expectations about a series, I will try to not place it too high. Being disappointed about something you think you will like it’s not fun at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think this is something anyone who views stories of any sort falls into. We don’t go to watch a superhero movie these days. We go to judge that movie against every other super hero movie we’ve seen, our expectations of the character in question, the casting, the director, etc. A relatively good movie might end up getting heavily criticised because it failed to meet expectations not because it wasn’t actually good.

    Still, I think this is resolved if reviewers are up front about what they like and don’t like about a show or movie or book. I ended up not liking Joker Game much because I wanted it to be something it clearly wasn’t going to become. I initially hated the end of KADO and then having thought about it I realised I hated that it didn’t live up to my expectations from the first half of the season and the ending is still a bit disappointing but wasn’t actually all that bad when compared to other anime endings. So, just being clear about why you don’t like something makes it clear to the reader what the actual problem is and whether that might be a problem for them or not.

    Really interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We really do start comparing things to similar whenever we experience a medium. I hadn’t conaidered superhero movies since it’s been a while since I’ve seen one, but you’re totally right.

      I think that’s a wonderful way to resolve this potential dilemma. That way the reader can follow the reviewer’s line of thought and understand what the reviewer values or wanted to see from an anime series.

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic editorial, Remy. As we spoke about already, I’m happy to see this topic expanded upon into a full post so others can think about how they react toward anime.
    Like you said, there’s no right or wrong way to do this, especially since there are many different things to judge an anime by. Intrinsic value, technical merit, and personal appeal all play a part, and at least two of those things are highly subjective qualities. To complicate matters, one’s opinion on all of these are influenced by expectations before you even hit the play button.
    My approach has always been to try and quantify the value as completely as I can, and then invite the reader to make their own determination. Someone might hate something I loved and vice versa, so I don’t feel right talking in absolutes. As an aniblogger I like to think my job is to inform and entertain rather than dictate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Weekend!

      Mmm it really feels like I’ve been mooching off others recently, unfortunately, but I’m glad to have your support. Maybe this post will have others think about their reactions towards anime from now on (or not).

      Mmm subjectivity really complicates rvrrything. That’s what makes reading people’s opinions so amusing (and perhaps frustrating).

      That’s a wonderful mindset. I adore it.


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