The Kanonisation?

Double Zeta Kanon
Fa-uchi wheels Ay-ille off-stage.

So I finished Kanon.

I don’t like to begin by emphasising what little I can say, partly because doing so seems a little too introspective for my taste and partly because it could be a trick: practiced orators sometimes claim to be rough-spoken so that the audience will drop their guard (I’ve noticed David Cameron occasionally does this). In this case, however, there’s a fact backing me up: I can’t objectively assess Kanon, as a whole. Or, at least, I can’t say much more than ‘It’s better than Shuffle!‘, for I have a nasty case of genre-blindness.

On the other hand, I can at least note what impressed me, and (perhaps despite myself) I was impressed pretty often. Human movement was well-observed: when battling demons, for example, Lesser-Kyon Yuichi fell down and curled up in pain, and it convincingly looked like pain rather than a set of pain symbols and an excessive exclamation from a voice actor. Speaking of voice actors, Ayako (Lafiel!) Kawasumi‘s voice acting for Kaori at Shiori’s birthday party was understated, with just the right hint of a catch in her voice. In the twenty-first episode, meanwhile, the numerous flashbacks were so well-woven that Kanon may have finally redeemed the device in my eyes after the damage done by SEED Destiny. There was even a fine solo piano piece which shone out amidst the mass of unimpressive (crushingly quotidian) background music.

The small-scale pacing of scenes within each episode was pleasantly transparent: the arrangement and timing fitted so well that (unusually for me) I forgot that they were there. The sixteenth episode, for instance, marked a break between two different stories, but for me it flowed imperceptibly from Mai recovering in hospital all the way to the tearful, snowbound closing scene. (Although this experience may be normal for those who watch fewer series which are built around having a battle in the final third of each episode.)

Unfortunately I felt much less comfortable with the larger-scale organisation of the story. The abrupt progression in the twenty-first episode from confession to disappearance – episode twenty-one might well have been titled ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ – is a case in point, but I’d also point to Mai’s story, which lingered a little too long, and Shiori’s, which should have lingered longer but didn’t, as examples. Though my reaction to Shiori’s story points out how personal this opinion is: it suffered because I played (read?) narcissu a few days before watching it.

[Incidentally, if you haven't given narcissu a try then I do recommend it. Its rough edges and brevity are more than compensated for by its status as both free and legal, and by the interesting contrast between its two scripts. And its characters claw shreds of humanity back for themselves in the face of a terminal illness, which is why it left me Ruined For Shiori.]

Yet I still don’t like Kanon. Is there something inherently wrong with the genre, or is it just a gap in my taste? I see that this ground has been covered before (hyperbolically so; I am tempted to invoke Godwin), and my instinctive answer is the latter: it’s not Kanon, it’s me. Indeed, I almost regret watching this: the experience has suggested I’m less broad-minded, perhaps less ecumenical, than I had hoped. So, shockingly, examining Kanon was almost as good an exercise in confronting my own inadequacy as something like Kaiji. There’re plenty of rocks one could throw at the show – ‘quotidian’ was a purple, overwrought expression of a real criticism, and legitimate questions can be asked about a certain studio’s envelope – but ultimately its fans would say, with Donne, ‘For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me love‘:

[T]o me, all it takes is one turn of the key to convince me that it’s worth mortgaging the house, selling my soul for a sleek machine like Kanon. That roar of the engine, the engine that screams “Uguu~”, is enough to make me and many guys weak in the knees [. . .]

There will be people who don’t understand. Those who can’t see the merit in having a machine that runs off of tears. Maybe they are the ones who are right. But as a visual-novel / harem fan, I live for this, and I can’t imagine seeing otherwise.

Faced with that, how can I write something churlish? I’m unconverted by the show itself, but (to close where we began) impassioned rhetoric is something I live for.

Any Other Business

Truly Famous
Grandmother said this, apparently.

I’m pleased, and embarrassed, to have won several of the Blogger’s Choice Anime Blog Awards. So, um, thank you if you voted for me, in either part of the competition.

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37 responses to “The Kanonisation?

  1. Repeat this 100 times a day:

    “I love Kanon.”

  2. Congratulations for your well-deserved awards, and for pulling through Kanon despite your dislike. But primarily for the awards.

  3. uguu~

    I’d stick Kanon in the average category. Too many cute helpless Key girls for my taste.

  4. You know I can’t believe I deleted Clannad off of my HD. What was I thinking?

    I still haven’t seen Kanon, either; yet, at least.

    And congrats for the awards. I know I voted for you in several categories, but they escape me.

  5. AND WOW IT’S FRIDAY THE 13TH!

  6. Does this mean I should watch it?

  7. Well, so it is.

    Anyway, it’s normal to not like a certain genre of anime isn’t it? I guess that your natural tastes would tend to make you enjoy shows like Kanon less, not that it’s unacceptable right? There are certain shows I can’t stand too (thankfully Kanon isn’t on that list) so I can understand what you’re getting at.

    Eitherway, congratulations for getting votes in the awards, you deserve it! =D

  8. Oh yeah, congratulations on your awards. At least one of us beat RIUVA.

  9. Omedetou IKnight! ^^ well deserved indeed!

  10. Congratulations all of your hard work has paid off!

    Why the embarrassment? Its not like you have to accept the award naked or make some gawd awful speech.

  11. “Indeed, I almost regret watching this: the experience has suggested I’m less broad-minded, perhaps less ecumenical, than I had hoped.”

    I liked Kanon, but feel almost this same way about Clannad instead -_-”

    Congrats on the Award btw :D

  12. Yeah Kanon felt like an uphill battle for me (mostly because I felt pressured to try and like it somehow during my stay with it on animesuki) where a lot of scenes felt like they were trying to force you to feel a certain way rather then actually succeeding in it naturally. For example any scene that was supposed to be funny ended up at best gaining strained laughter from and any scene where I was expected to cry just didn’t really do it for me.

    I know all the people you’ll here talk about Kanon say that they tried to fight back tears and eventually gave in (such that the phrase has almost become a cliche when applied to a Key fan), but I didn’t even remotely feel the urge to cry once. It’s mostly because I just didn’t identify with the characters much as they seemed more like representations of moe fetishes then actual characters with their own unique backstory and personal traits.

    Even the mystery aspects I’ve seen done a lot better in other anime such that this didn’t feel particularly special for me. By te end it hadn’t really done anything that I felt was critically unique to the Visual Novel adaptation genre and well yeah, it basically ended up giving me the same feeling every other Kyoani show I’ve watched has. Quaint, whimsical, effortful, but lacking in the execution and just sort of empty in substance as well despite outward appearances.

    If I hadn’t felt so pressured by the fans to enjoy it then I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching beyond the first arc and let me tell you this is the series that started off a bitter streak that lasted almost an entire year. You didn’t want to know me throughout the late 2006-late 2007 anime season.

  13. Congratulations, now you’re a Kanye West proper!

    Question: Will you proceed to AIR or Clannad after this?

  14. Your awards are well-deserved. And I suppose we’ll have to meet in the middle on this one; the whole KyoAni/Key thing isn’t for you, and the whole mecha thing isn’t for me.

    I did like ∀ Gundam, mind you, but it didn’t have anything to do with giant robots fighting. Not really.

  15. Oh and I just want to add that finally I don’t feel alone in the blogosphere. *Cries tears of joy*

    @Pontifus: If you like TAG then why not try Escaflowne? That’s usually the other one I recommend to non-mecha fans as a bridge series.

  16. baka-raptor: 1/10. Your trolling is a little less obvious btw.

    kaioshin: -9001/10. I have never seen someone fail so hard in my life.

    iKnight: I can certainly see where you’re coming from and I’m much more impressed that you admit that you don’t like a show because of your inadequacies. That’s a lot more honest than some people out there.

  17. @drmchrs0: Ditto. ;) No seriously that coming from you is hysterical. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to interpret that without laughing

  18. @ All congratulating me: thank you very much.

    @ IcyStorm: That’s not impassioned rhetoric, that’s brainwashing!

    @ lelangir: Were you thinking ‘I’ll join The Animanachronism in his curmudgeonly rejection of all things Clannad?’

    @ Blissmo: Do you like moe? If so, yes, this means you should watch Kanon. It’s an interesting specimen of a certain type of anime – but if you watch it for that reason, you may wind up disliking it like I did.

    @ rroknedaj: I suppose it is normal to have preferences in genre. Perhaps it was too prideful of me to hope that I would be able to accept Kanon.

    @ Crusader: I’m embarrassed because I’m painfully aware that this blog is really very young.

    @ issa-sa: Interesting. I’m not up to watching Clannad, but perhaps I’ll give Air a shot one day. I remember you wrote a post comparing the three.

    @ Kaioshin-sama: I can see why watching Kanon but not especially liking it would make one bitter: it’s a weird feeling, when a show fails to deliver what its fans guarantee it will. I never properly burst into tears, but Makoto’s disappearance and Sayuri’s description of her relationship with her brother did make me a bit sniffly.

    @ Owen S: Kanye West . . . is he a rap artist? I might watch Air, after a suitable break. At least it’s shorter.

    @ Pontifus: Perhaps. I’d note that there are other Gundams which aren’t about giant robots, fighting: 0080: War in the Pocket springs to mind, as the hero isn’t even a pilot. And I’d join Kaoishin in recommending Escaflowne, but I see from your list that you’ve seen it already. In the words of /m/, ‘Why is shoujo mecha so manly?’

    @ drmchsr0: Well, Kanon has its problems, but given how many people like it there’s no doubt it’s possible to overcome them. So I’d be foolish not to look at my own nature for an answer. And in retrospect I can see that my taste was probably never going to be suited by the show. Perhaps this was too ambitious (or, as I suggested above, too prideful) an attempt.

  19. @Kaioshin,

    At that time, quite a few of us gave you a piece of perfectly good advice that you just completely refused to take; if you don’t like it, don’t watch.

    The fact that you persisted in trolling the series despite this good advice means that your bitter streak is something of your own making. Stop trying to push the blame on others.

    Even Animanachronism understood that perhaps Kanon is just not to his taste.

  20. @issa-sa: I have to agree.

    All Key stories are essentially the same in my eyes. The difference: Clannad’s game plan was BUCKETS OF TEARS!!1, whereas Kanon was all about YUI HORIE <3.

    I’m tempted to say that all it takes to make a decent series is Yui Horie and a bit of KyoAni magic, but making assumptions like that has only ever led to disappointment.

  21. when I watched kanon, it was one of my first ‘getting back into anime’ shows and it became my 3rd favorite immediately for making me consistently very emotional. Over the past 15 or so months since watching it, I’ve become a different anime fan, though, and while I do want to rewatch it, I honestly can’t see myself enjoying it because it goes against too many of the things I’ve come to find important about shows.

  22. I knew strange things would happen on Friday the 13th. This post is justification to that.

    Anyway I could not bring myself to cry as well. *shrugs*

  23. Congrats on the awards :)

    I haven’t really seen Kanon yet. I’m planning on it, but I have a feeling it’s going to strike me much like Air. Which is to say, that it’ll be okay, but I’m not going to love it.

  24. Congratulations (3x)!

    That being said, I applaud your hanging on with series like that.

  25. You thought Mai’s story dragged on too long? That’s something I haven’t thought of before. Maybe it’s just because I imagine everyone’s story as rather short compared to Makoto’s – but in the case of her and Mai’s arcs, it’s really a question of where do you mark the start of the story, versus the lighthearted transition episode. Can’t agree with you more on Shiori on the other hand, although I wonder what else they could put in her story.

    And I remember saying this at least once before, but; is it really possible to analyze any series objectively? Or is it necessary? The most I think is reasonable for any sort of ‘objective’ evaluation is comparing series within a genre.

    (And wow, did I write that? I’m impressed. XD Hopefully we can get a bunch of passionate 12 Days posts this December as well.

    Late comment what now?)

  26. @ 21stcenturydigitalboy: When I started to watch anime curiousity meant I was interested in anything. Nowadays I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, but I’m much less open to letting a show do whatever it wants to me – which is perhaps a shame, though I might be viewing this through nostalgic (prelapsarian?) glasses.

    @ The Sojourner: I must say last Friday was very normal for me.

    @ iniksbane: Okay, but not loveable? Probably. I’ll have to consider the same guess in reverse when it comes to Air. I still find Kanon interesting, though: partly I’m intersted by my inability to like it, but I’m also interested in it as an example of one trend in anime, taken to an extreme.

    @ Michael: Stiff upper lip, and all that.

    @ CCY: You’re definitely right (now I think on what you’ve written) that it does depend where you decide the transition episode(s) are. Mai’s story definitely felt overlong to me. Makoto’s was more acceptable because it felt more integrated with the other characters.

    The objective assessment (I try to avoid the idea of ‘objective analysis’) thing is a massive problem. I should get round to writing something about it. Briefly put, I think (this is subject to change without notice) that objective assessments are both impossible and necessary (at least we like doing them).

  27. “@ 21stcenturydigitalboy: When I started to watch anime curiousity meant I was interested in anything. Nowadays I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, but I’m much less open to letting a show do whatever it wants to me – which is perhaps a shame, though I might be viewing this through nostalgic (prelapsarian?) glasses.”

    I think this is true for most people across most media. For starters, a cliche is awesome the first time you see it. Secondly, when you’ve seen the best of a genre, your standards rise. Thirdly, anime as a medium itself isn’t a novelty to you anymore. I loved Inuyasha when I first watched it (first anime pretty much) but I don’t think I’d even consider it if I came across it today. That’s partly an age thing as well though.

  28. A simple belated congrats…

    Sigh. Once again work+real life has kept me ignorant about the recent happenings in the anime bloggosphere.

  29. @ Shiri: Good point. Cliches become cliches because they’re awesome, and with the first few series one watches there’s no frame of reference. There are compensations, though, I suppose, such as genre literacy: when first I watched NGE I completely missed its relationship with other mecha shows.

    @ koneko-chan: The same thing’s nearly happening to me (you can see it’s been seven days from this post and I’ve only managed one other)!

  30. One thing to keep with Kanon is perspective–the original eroge came out in 1999 and effectively (alongside the first To Heart) set the standards for everything that was to come after it, both in the eroge industry and in the anime industry, as they hurriedly followed suit. And, yes, the original game was porn–but it was also one of the first (and still woefully few) eroge to attempt something more than simple titillation. Just for that, I give it high marks–the whole of Kanon pales in comparison to the half of Clannad I’ve seen, which I’ve noted reasons why in really really old posts.

    That said, there were some moments in Kanon that got me on the verge of tears, and did affect me emotionally. And, while I have cried at anime plenty of times before, I think it takes a special combination of circumstances–attention paid to the episode, mood at the time of viewing, etc.–to determine whether I am emotionally moved to tears by an anime, or whether I sit there, bored.

    It might also have been that you went into it with a (possibly subconscious) “I’m not going to like this” thought in your head, even if you thought you were giving it a fair chance. I’ve had issues like that in the past–it took me two months before I actually managed to watch an episode of Mushishi and actually like it, because I’d start up every episode with the notion that I wouldn’t really like it. Then it finally got driven into my skull that it wasn’t trying to be “creepy” as I thought it was being (and you still can’t tell me that there’s parts of Mushishi that don’t creep you out), but rather what it was actually trying to do: tell very human stories.

    There’s a huge quality gap between Mushishi and Kanon, of course, and, given your tastes, it’s no surprise that you didn’t really like Kanon, but sometimes, the difference between liking a series and not liking a series is simply a state of mind. It’s part of why I still can’t bring myself to watch Kaiba past episode 1, despite the fact that I really want to.

  31. True, though I don’t think the game (or its legacy) should be taken into account when objectively assessing the anime – but as CCY says, is objectivity necessary or possible? I can see how the franchise demands respect as something of a progenitor.

    It’s possible that I was subconsciously predisposed to dislike Kanon. I try not to bother with the subconscious too much, on the grounds that if I can’t detect it it’s not much use to me. I don’t think I watched the show expecting the wrong things – but then I don’t know the genre, so I didn’t know what to expect. Except for an old remark of CCY’s, that Shuffle!, ‘It’s like Key, but with breasts’, which suggested to me that Kanon might be a bit like a weepier Shuffle!, without breasts.

    . . . maybe that wasn’t too helpful an attitude, in retrospect – especially since I wasn’t exactly blown away by Shuffle!.

  32. If I had been reading that remark, I would have assumed it meant “with breasts instead of or emphasised over Key’s plot-like substance.” I haven’t actually seen Shuffle though.

    @OGT: Very good point. Couldn’t get into Tengen Toppa, Lucky Star or Macross Frontier until someone told me what I should be expecting from them. Then it clicked and I really enjoyed them. Mushishi never caused me any such difficulty though (and I adored that too.)

  33. @ Shiri: Shuffle!‘s a strange beast: there’re bits which have plot, and bits which don’t. Personally I don’t think it’s worth wading through the near-plotless harem episodes to get to the plotty harem episodes. Unless you like plotless harem.

    Lots of people have told me what to expect from Lucky Star, but I went back and re-watched an episode at random the other day and it did very little for me. I think in the case of slife-of-life it may be something inherent in my nature rather than something placed in my mind.

  34. I think with Lucky Star that may be that people expect all sorts of different things from it rather than that the principle is flawed in general. Even the people defending Lucky Star seem to think it was a better slice of life than comedy, but I laughed out loud the whole way through.

  35. Perhaps. Sadly, comedy’s even more variable, at least in my case. I know my idea of what’s uproariously funny can be very different to the next guy’s.

  36. Pingback: THAT Animeblog - [LWC 59] The Kanonification!

  37. Pingback: THAT Animeblog - [LWC 61] Visual Study in Feminine Finger Positions

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