There are few things I hate more than broad generalizations. The reasons should be obvious: they are mostly vague and break down quickly when you apply them over a range of items. Unfortunately Comics, anime, and video games are some of the most common forms of media to suffer from generalizations mostly because people don’t understand them and don’t want to take the time to understand them. When one of these generalizations comes from within the community it is typically an attempt to bring people into the fandom.
But rarely have I seen a generalization used in an attempt to be profound. Nothing you say can apply to all pieces of work in a given genre, let alone an entire medium. I have been a famous critic of rap music but if you question me a little bit I’ll admit that there are few, albeitvery few, rap artists who could be considered good poets. (Even if they are misdirecting their talents) But when you use a blatant generalization in an attempt to be profound it strikes me as not only ignorant but arrogant.
I’m going to have to call out Michael Pinto’s Fanboy.com for this crime. The site is a fairly good source of geek news and videos although the ad to content ratio is a bit on the ad side and the lack of comments discredits them as a modern publication. Normally I try not to speak out on the works of other bloggers because I believe most of what we write about is subjective and most readers know this when they visit a blog. I wouldn’t have called him out on this post had I not seen other bloggers quoting the headline and agreeing with the statement without really thinking about what it means.
But I can’t ignore this shameful attempt to capture what “sets anime apart” which according to Mr. Pinto is “more than just the craftsmanship but also the storytelling” in a piece titled “Anime isn’t about the Complexity but the storytelling.”
The article is mainly about an ad for snack food and I agree with Mr. Pinto that this ad really a triumph of visual storytelling. But to then apply the lessons learned by a thirty second ad to the entire medium of Japanese Animation is a bit grandiose. I will respond to the key lines of this post:
People always identify the complexity of anime as a visual trademark
Vague statement. This actually means nothing because “complexity” isn’t defined. Later in the post Mr. Pinto talks about storytelling and the title of the post makes it seem like he is exclusively talking about storytelling. Yet complexity is a visual trademark? So which is he actually talking about? The complexity animation or the complexity of the storytelling?
but having looked at quite a few educational animated segments from NHK I can tell you that isn’t the case.
Which segments and why? No matter how intelligent or credible you may be I’m not going to take a statement like this without something to back it up. What about them makes you believe that a trait of the entire medium is it’s simplicity? Of course I’m leading the witness in this case because I know that no matter how stunning anything from NHK is it cannot be applied to the entire medium.
To me what sets anime apart is more than just the craftsmanship but also the storytelling.
What craftsmanship? The craftsmanship of the animation? I’m pretty sure that creating a good story also involves some kind of craftsmanship. Story’s just don’t appear fully formed in front of animators. Is this supposed to refer to the craftsmanship of the animation? In that case you have insulted an army of artists from all over Japan.
So what does the title of this post “Anime Isn’t About the Complexity but the Storytelling” mean? It means nothing. It’s a vague statement designed to appear profound.
If Mr. Pinto is claiming that anime is good because the stories are simple I think we can point to dozens of shows that are just as if not more complex than a story told in any other medium. If Mr. Pinto is claiming that anime is fantastic because the animation is simple well he just insulted an entire industry of artists and again we can all point to dozens of shows where the complexity of the art ads to its value. So I ask Mr. Pinto to please explain what I’m supposed to take away from this post other than the fact that he made a poor generalization that has no real meaning. I’ll also invite Scott VonSchilling to take a stab at it since he was so quick to agree with the statement.
Please take this as a note of caution: Don’t believe something because it sounds good. Think about what the words mean.