Picking Your Spring Anime, aka Anime Blogger Groupthink

image credit: zerochan

I enjoy the beginning of each new anime season (or cour, if you wish). Every aniblogger gets that new shiny anime love glow, leading us to post more often, even getting the old and crotchety of us to dust off the cobwebs off our WordPress accounts to write again. I confess to refreshing Crunchyroll’s website a couple of times an hour, sending them psychic messages from my brain and willing them to release a new episode of anything quicker.

I’ve watched several of the new series over the weekend: Devil Survivor 2, The Severing Crime Edge, Zettai Bouei Leviathan, Hataraku Maou-sama, Suisei no Gargantia, Muromisan. From that selection, it’s a mixed bag; I enjoyed a couple, still on the fence on one, and dropping the rest with no hesitation. There’s a couple of series that haven’t been released on CR or other legal streaming sites so I’ll hold off on my opinion till they’re available.

One of the more interesting quirks of anime bloggers (and this is a very sweeping generalization) is the race to be the first one to write about a show. The advent of simulcasts has changed the landscape a bit, but I still recall downloading the raw files, despite my elementary knowledge of the Japanese language, just so I wouldn’t be spoiled by bloggers who’ve written about that episode hours ago. I’m not sure — and I’m certainly not picking out bloggers who still do this — but I had a feeling most of the people who downloaded the raws didn’t know any more Japanese than I did. It was just that important to be the first person to make the screencaps and to summarize the episode based on what they think happened. If they made a mistake in the summary, it was easy enough to back and revise the post. There you go, no problemo!

The anime adaptation of Flowers of Evil, in my opinion, has certainly suffered from this initial bad PR. When screencaps featuring the character designs started showing up, I had a feeling that it turned off a lot of people who were initially excited about the series. It had seemed that some weren’t even going to give the anime a fair viewing; they knew that the anime wasn’t going to match their expectations from the manga so why waste their time? I’ve read a couple of volumes of Flowers of Evil last year, it didn’t appeal to me so this show was a definite pass anyway — nonetheless, I still find it interesting to look at aniblogger group behavior and influence and to watch how quickly an opinion or idea spreads and how the group interprets and filters it.

How much does the opinion of the anime blogging community affect your own choices?

I’ll only speak for myself since I’m the only person for whom I can speak with the most certainty, but I do think I mostly follow the crowd when judging on what series are worth watching. I would scan Animenano, pick out a few random posts about the series in question, maybe go to MyAnimeList and see what the mean rating score is. I sometimes also go on twitter and scroll through people’s first impressions/liveblogs of certain shows — that’s definitely trickier but I can get a lot more opinions faster that way, so… Most importantly (maybe), I have a handful of blogs whose tastes and opinions I value — I visit their sites and see if they’re recommending it or not.

For these “node” blogs, I selected them based on the quality of the author’s writing, their similarity with my own personal tastes, heck even the background and personality of the author. (That’s why those ‘About’ pages are so important!) There are no hard and fast rules, and the node blogs could change at any time.

I’ve flitted in and out of the anime blogger community over the years, and while the individual players may have changed, the game is still the same. We are all here and we all do this because we are opinionated individuals who care about anime enough that we’re willing to spend our time watching anime and then writing about it for other opinionated individuals who think and act the same way. I’ve always thought that was cool.

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10 thoughts on “Picking Your Spring Anime, aka Anime Blogger Groupthink

  1. I’m super guilty of this. I pass on the group think like communion wine.

    I think there is some value to be able to accurately identify the landscape of anime first impressions as a group opinion. I think of it like a 3d panoramic image. It’s informative and gives you a good picture of what to expect. As long as you understand this is groupthink, not some kind of gold standard, it’s valuable information.

    And in my opinion, as long as you form your opinion on your own (and how hard can this be?) and do not simply ride the bandwagon, you’re good!

    • I hope that most people do form their opinions on their own — for every person that agrees with the group, there’s at least one that doesn’t, and for me, it’s sometimes the outliers (trolls?) that make the anime blogging community always interesting.

      • Maybe another way to look at it is how groupthink seems to influence? For example for someone like me, who checks out at least half of the new shows every season, more often than not I don’t need to read any blog (or even marketing material for that matter) to come up with some kind of an opinion on the merits, so to speak. But for people who don’t sample shows on their own, or talk about how others’ opinions affect their limited sampling in the first place, it feels like a different case where their opinions seem to be influenced by the consensus. In truth it’s probably a lot more complicated and isn’t something so easy to generalize. It’s easy to see even for me, even if I watch all the shows, I often look at other people’s opinions and marketing material to come up with a (IMHO) more well-rounded opinion, or come up with a better angle, or (in a more practical sense) adjust my expectations for a show accordingly.

  2. I’m quite the opposite of you. I sometimes keep post of blogs I frequently read open but don’t read them, as a reminder that I have to watch that episode. When someone tweets about it and I haven’t watched it yet I do my best to not look at it. The exception is when a show that I didn’t plan on watching gets enough praise, then I occasionally have a look at it if it’s something suited to my tastes.

    In choosing which shows to check out I rely on season previews, mostly on Scamp’s, because his taste is rather similar to mine and I know more or less where it differs.

    When I read opinion pieces, it’s not really to figure out the quality of a show (screw popularity). It’s more to figure out their tastes, and whether I should listen to their recommendations in the future. Either way I’m much more likely to read analysis pieces of shows I like and have watched. Motto: Screw quality discussions, I want to know what it all means.

    • I’m glad that you commented. I like finding out other people’s processes so thanks for sharing yours.

      I think I’m similar to you when it comes to shows that I originally didn’t plan to watch, but if people who I follow/read praise it to the high heavens, I may give it a chance. It’s a rare series that’ll prompt me to do that, and I’ve noticed that very few series live up to the hype.

      • Well, for me it needs praise from many people, and it’s also influenced by what kind of shows they otherwise like. I’ve seen a few stinkers through that, but I’ve also watched Girls und Panzer because of it, so it pays off well enough.

  3. Oh… peer pressure- sorta. I usually pick up alone from the charts first, but the last year I can see myself being stressed of not having watched this or that, because a. what if the anime that gets praise is really sth good and I miss it, b.being able to participate in the discussion while the series is ongoing is sth unique and I could say that you enjoy it more, too. Sadly, there’s not enough time for everything, much more when (editorial) blogging takes up a lot of time, too.

    About Aku no Hana and Shingeki no Kyoujin: I skimmed through the manga, but I was a bit scared to tread further. But now in anime format I wanted to try once more and perhaps participate in the delirium. If they’re still not sth I can handle, then I’ll drop. But each medium offers different opportunities and pov, so why not?

    Watching a series in raw: I only did that once with ef a tale of melodies, but afterwards I abandoned it, since the pictures without the words were without meaning for me :/

    • I feel that we’re in the same boat, as it were 🙂 I don’t really like episodic blogging, so most of the time I don’t feel the need to watch the current season of anime since I’m not really writing about it anyway. Yet I do enjoy the lively discussions and the excitement that accompanies a current season so I do feel pressured to watch certain shows just to continue to be relevant, y’know?

      • I know… but I’ll disagree that a post, even an editorial, won’t get more comments/attention, if the anime it refers to is airing that season. That’s another reason I put the extra effort.

  4. Pingback: Impressions and Dealbreakers: More Thoughts on Spring Anime | Tokyo Jupiter

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