Curmudgeon, Recusant, Mediated Viewer

S.G.I.S.
I positively refuse to use this image’s obvious caption

I am usually reluctant to write introspective entries. I fear that they all-too-often degenerate into uninteresting, solipsistic musings. If I wanted to put that sort of thing on the internet, I’d get a LiveJournal. But I was recently convinced that introspection can, on occasion, produce something interesting. This, in combination with a throwaway sentence in the Search for Number Nine, set me thinking about my own viewing habits.

Cameron Probert’s Law of Viewer Curmudgeon-hood:

The amount of hype a series gets is inversely proportional to how much a curmudgeon will like a series.

What is a curmudgeon? Traditionally, ‘curmudgeon’ indicates an individual who’s miserly and churlish. When it comes to my own viewing habits, I’m miserly with my time and churlish about other people’s opinions. Here’s how this works:

  1. A studio famous for making good anime (let’s call them . . . uh . . Cute-oh Animation) produces an adaption of famously good source material (plucking a title out of the air, a visual novel called The Irish Family).
  2. The otakusphere has a collective bloggasm. (One of those hentai ones which looks like a fire extinguisher being unleashed, and winds up all over your face, your clothes and your priceless first Penguin edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.)
  3. I feel churlish about the attention The Irish Family is getting, and the plaudits which are heaped upon Cute-oh Animation.
  4. So, being miserly with my time, I resolve to ignore The Irish Family and replace it on my viewing schedule with something classic involving robots fighting, by a different studio (for example’s sake, let’s suppose they’re called Dawn).

In my case, I act as a curmudgeon before I watch the series concerned, rather than while watching it. So you might formulate The Animanachronism’s Law of Viewer Curmudgeon-hood thus:

As the amount of hype surrounding a series increases, the chance that The Animanachronism will watch it decreases.

When I resolve positively not to watch a series, I call myself a ‘recusant’ (so, for example, I’m an ‘Irish Family recusant’). Recusants were originally those who refused to attend Anglican church services during a period of the long and not-entirely-glorious history of the Church of England when attendance at the Church’s services was legally compelled. Most recusants were Catholics, though some were non-Anglican Protestants, and so certain modern English Catholics who have long family histories of Catholicism have adopted the word ‘recusant’ as a positive term.

In any case, because I consider my action to be a positive refusal to turn up to the holy duty that is the Irish Family communion [now there's a loaded phrase!], rather than an apathetic failure to watch it, I call myself a recusant.

Clannad
This is the Irish band Clannad.
They’re unrelated to The Irish Family.
They probably use violins.

[Should I decide in the end to watch a series which I initially decided against, I sometimes like it. The objective quality [if such a thing exists - and yes, I am planning an entry on the subject] of a series does not depend, after all, on the scale or the enthusiasm of the otakusphere’s reaction.

In fact, Code Geass, the series which famously ruined me for objectivity, initially received a curmudgeonly reaction from me. Mainly because I didn’t know what it was about, being less plugged in to the otakusphere at the time. But this is by-the-by.]

Of course I don’t entirely lack all experience of The Irish Family. I still get a sketchy idea of the show via the entries of other bloggers (most recently this one and this one, for example) and /a/. This is a very good example of a heavily mediated experience; in a sense, I am watching Cute-oh Animation’s latest adaption, just in a blog, darkly.

Mediated, vicarious experience is an interesting concept. I can think of some other instances: the reports of bloggers who are, unlike oneself, attending a convention; online summaries of the Zero no Tsukaima light novels; and Robotech. An idea to store away for future use.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch an episode of Dawn’s Theta Fundam saga.

16 responses to “Curmudgeon, Recusant, Mediated Viewer

  1. I really like your writing on this post, it’s serious and hilarious at the same time. Your explanation of the curmudgeon process left me rolling.

    (Incidentally, I’m too dense to figure out the obvious caption for the top screenshot.)

    Personally, I find myself the opposite, in that as hype increases, my resolve to watch something usually increases. Although, Clannad might be a bit out of your genre tastes, so I can understand where you’re coming from.

    The important thing when watching a hyped show like this is, honestly, to ignore the hype. If you try to make it live up to the hype, it’ll become a much more trying experience. I’ve found this with The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi; it’s a very good show by all means, but if you try to take it as God like a lot of people has, somehow you’ll be let down. I just take the hype as a sign that this show might be on to something.

    To be honest, I don’t see how you could watch a show through other people’s eyes, if only because the experience isn’t quite the same – you get more of the logical, the explanations and analysis, but the emotions can’t quite be conveyed the same, and that’s what’s really important for me in a lot of anime. But to each their own – I’m a hands on person like that.

  2. Well, I think we are alike – I dropped both “Hurai” and “Unlucky Planet” because ppl kept praising it and I simply could not find a single point where I could actually enjoy those shows without being disappointed. I guess my disappointment grows proportionally to the expectations I have about a certain series, and since I am by nature reluctant to overrated (mainstream) series, I usually find it more convenient to go against the grain.

    And especially the fact that Cute-oh Animation has made “The Irish Family” and “Earth” (their older work, also called “Air” in Soviet Russia) kept me from watching those yet. Perhaps when I feel emo and need to slit my wrists, I might take a look into them.

  3. @ CCYoshi: I suppose it’s not really a hard-and-fast rule like I’m pretending. Kaiji came to my attention because bloggers wrote about it, but they wrote about it in a ‘this is undeservedly ignored’ vein.

    Certainly ‘watching’ a show through the eyes of bloggers is not nearly as pleasantly visceral as really watching a show with one’s own eyes. Though if you collected the otakusphere’s collective Irish Family screencap archive and played it sequentially as a slideshow I suspect you’d learn a surprisingly large amount about the story.

    On the writing, I’m glad you like it. While usually unhelpful, late nights and unbranded paracetamol can be a powerful combination.

    (As for the picture, I think the snow’s fairly obvious, but perhaps I should have edited the picture to make it clearer that she’s sad, like so. Unless what I think is snow is actually some wierd spirit-thing which I wouldn’t know about, not having seen The Irish Family.)

    @ natsuneko: Expectations can be a real pain. I seem to recall Owen S. saying something like ‘Watch anything; expect nothing’, though I don’t know how easy that is to do in practice. Expectations and faith play such a huge role in day-to-day life decisions that it’s hard to give them up. But it can be fun when a series refuses, rather than fails, to meet them (*cough* Code Geass Episode 22).

    For the record, I thought Hurahi and Unlucky Planet were both enjoyable, good shows – the former rather more than the latter, but then the former’s source material was better. But I did have to overcome my curmudgeonly nature to watch both of them. If I wanted to slit my wrists, I’d use a collection of poorly-edited Naruto AMVs (all using Linkin’ Park songs), a hot bath and a razor.

  4. I don’t know, I have a bigger problem with that other Irish family named Clannad.

    But yeah, I actually agree with you. Honestly, I’ve found it especially with REALLY big shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, that it hurts my viewing of the show simply because I want to not like it because I’m just a contrarian.

    Although I do think that a primary experience does beat the vicarious experience. Even if you find that the primary experience merely reinforces your initial reaction.

  5. my god its like you tapped into the back of my brain and pulled out my contrariness. Of course i kind of have to watch clannad because the people i hang out with generally have no taste, and i would have nothing to talk to them about if not for shitty shows like this

    i like to think the “The Animanachronism’s Law of Viewer Curmudgeon-hood” applies to me too, but looking through myanimelist it would appear thats not so

    also thank you for teaching me a new word i shall use recusant as much as is humanly possible now

  6. “I seem to recall Owen S. saying something like ‘Watch anything; expect nothing’, though I don’t know how easy that is to do in practice.”

    It’s a philosophy that I try to incorporate into my watching, so I’ll be more likely to be pleasantly surprised by something than to be utterly disappointed in it. It’s very hard to do though when coupled with previous experiences with it from watching a prequel/playing the game/reading the manga to just hearing how people praise and vilify it. It very tempting to let that change your impetus to watch a show, but at the same time, it’s better for you to have expectations then to have someone elses. It helps that when I think to myself, “I’m going to enjoy this in some way”, since it gives a little leeway to things.

    One of my early (and probably favorite post I’ve written so far) was a post on how people slammed Lucky Star from only the first episode. The reason seemed to be because of expectations that somehow the show was going to be the next Haruhi, and disappointment from those expectations when it turned out to be one slow-paced episode with people talking about food for six minutes. It’s better to take a show as it is than to take it as what you think it should be, since the latter almost never comes out that way. :P

    I guess avoiding making comparisons to other things is a good way to go. Looking at Gunslinger Girl II for example, by itself, it doesn’t seem to be that bad of a copy over from the source material, but when you based your opinion on your watching of the godly season one from Madhouse, you find that it’s a bit lacking. :)

  7. Owen’s philosophy is a respectable one to follow but personally I find it very difficult to overcome my own inbuilt (stubbornly comprehensive) attitudes and taste.

    I can sit and watch something I wouldn’t otherwise, ignoring all the warnings my intuition screams at me, and find myself closing the window fifteen minutes in because I realise time is better spent elsewhere. Have this happen numerous times in a row and prejudices solidify rather than dilute.

    Curmudgeon-hood, as you call it, isn’t something I would criticise when suitably justified. Being hastily negative and judgmental, of course, is dangerous, but never confuse it with simply knowing your own tastes.

  8. @ Cameron Probert: As a matter of fact, I haven’t heard any of their music. Not that I would want to.

    @ berkles: Surely your self-sacraficial love for your friends shines through in your decision to watch The Irish Family so you can communicate with them?

    @ TheBigN: Lucky Star was certainly controversial when it debuted. As is my wont, I initially ignored it, but actually managed to enjoy the first episode once I was persuaded to try it.

    @ Hige: Knowing your tastes is an interesting one. While there’s no duty to have a brilliantly synoptic grasp of all genres of anime (though I’d love to!), at the same time just restricting myself to mecha would, I fear, make this blog very boring.

  9. Enya… that’s all I have to say about Clannad.

  10. So the redundantly long and elaborate comment syndrome struck again. I’m quite pleased to hear that someone out there actually remembers what I say, and enough of it to quote in a post of his at that. Thanks for the mention.

    I think I might have just enough material for a post with this one, so expect (and I use this word to amusing effect here) a reply to this soon. Just needed to acknowledge this fine and witty piece of writing while I was at it.

  11. @ Cameron Probert: Ouch.

    @ Owen: If it’s memorable enough, it gets remembered. Thanks for the acknowledgement, and I look forward to seeing your reply as and when it appears.

  12. Tomoyo catches magical hereditary AIDS, dies in approximately 24 hours, LOL

  13. Pingback: Satellite Kanon « The Animanachronism

  14. I’m glad I found this post (through MAL). I’m always, always interested in the reader and his process – how it informs his enjoyment (or lack thereof) and the resulting discourse.

    I guess the worst thing someone can say about me is that I’ve kept my mind so open my brains fell out… but that’s how I end up enjoying most things I consume.

  15. It’s fascinating, and surprisingly instructive, to read yourself as you read other things. I suspect I was already a pretty close-minded robot-seeker when I arrived at anime, to be honest, so unfortunately there was probably never much of a chance that I’d wind up open-minded.

  16. Pingback: Clannad: Unscene « The Animanachronism

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