According to my admittedly rather fallible memory, few anime in the last few years have frustrated me as much as Girlish Number, but I can’t help but feel that this is a good sense of frustration. I’m not angry because the anime is terrible, or even because I wish the characters were written differently, but because they realistically illustrate things about humanity that absolutely make my blood boil.
Hating the Anime
In episode 4 of Girlish Number, we discover that the anime they are creating in the anime (layers upon layers!) is utter garbage. Just like in real life, it takes only seconds for the Internet to collectively make up its mind about a new production and to spit out its opinions on a multitude of social media platforms. In spite of (or perhaps, rather, due to) the hype of the fans before the anime had aired, and the excitement of the amateur seiyuu (voice actors/actresses) involved, the final delivery fell far below expectations.
I was immediately able to empathize with this fictional situation. Just this past season, I experienced this same feeling with the airing of VisualArt’s/Key’s Rewrite. If you’ve followed our blog for any amount of time, you’re likely aware that there is no end to the praises that Kaze and I heap upon Rewrite, one of the most brilliant visual novels of our time. Speaking for myself, at least, knowing that the animation studio in charge of the adaptation did not have the best reputation for visual novel adaptations and that the story itself is nearly unadaptable only slightly tempered my overblown expectations. So, the anime’s final, awful delivery (currently rated at 6.68/10 on MAL) hit me hard, and I was mad.
As most netizens are wont to do, I turned to the echo chamber of the Internet for consolation. Between Twitter and Kazamatsuri.org*, the two places where I most frequently interact with other Key fans, I conveniently ignored (or bashed) those fans who were enjoying the series and internalized the criticisms of those who agreed with me. I think it’s safe to say that this is what a large number, if not a majority, of Key fans did when Rewrite aired.
As I was relating this personal experience while watching episode four of Girlish Number, I was then hit with a particular shot:
This is the writer of the original light novel upon which the anime featured in Girlish Number was based. More specifically, this is him after the first episode of this adaptation aired, after viewing the influx of terrible, terrible comments and insults hurled by disappointed fans. And all he wanted was for his modestly successful light novel series to be turned into the medium he adored…
Criticism and Hate
The dilemma where I find myself stuck is when to consider something criticism, and when to consider something hate.
The business manager side of me looks at the practical side of criticism, understanding that if businesses are patronized regardless of the quality of the goods or services they provide, the quality of those goods and services will, without fail, eventually dip. The business is simply being rewarded for doing whatever it wants! In other words, (the abstract concept of) criticism is a natural necessity.
The compassionate side of me, however, currently working full-time in Japan, is reminded of the times when people correct my Japanese. Even though it’s rarely done spitefully, and while the rational part of me understands that it is through these corrections that I must improve, the irrational and emotional side of my still responds with discouragement. “I thought I was improving, but I guess I really ought to just give up, huh…”
Even though the second case isn’t much more than a simple emotional overreaction, it demonstrates that even well-meaning and constructive criticism can have negative, if only temporary, effects. With this in mind, imagine malicious, echo chamber fueled criticism. What sort of disastrous effects might that have?
After processing these thoughts, I couldn’t help but imagine the writing staff of Rewrite, the visual novel and the anime, sitting alone in their dark apartments, much like the author in Girlish Number. While I don’t know the reality of their reactions to Rewrite‘s reception, I do know that they are only human, and humans are susceptible to criticism-driven depression. I can’t stand the thought that my selfish, catharsis-driven public complaints are the cause of another human’s suffering. Of course, then I was reminded yet again of the other side of the coin by episode five of Girlish Number…
Through this entire series thus far, Chitose, an upstart seiyuu has been ungrateful and downright bratty. She treated her subpar and subsequently standard level work as professional, the anime’s fans as lesser human beings, and did all of this in the spirit of self-righteous pride. Finally, after a special event for fans who ordered anime goods, the Internet pulled together its collective will to give her just desserts by posting nasty comments on a video of her. At last she discovered the pain of being hated. Frankly, that’s what she deserved anyway.
The Highest Standard
All of these swirling thoughts forced me to consider whether I was being rational or hypocritical. Is it really worth considering the feelings of the author when I’m just a drop in the ocean of consumers? Is it my pride that’s causing me to write this criticism? If I feel guilty about that criticism, is it really okay to just laugh off people who “deserve” it, like Chitose?
If there’s one thing that can said of the actions of Jesus by secular and Christian scholars alike, it’s that he gave massive amounts of grace to all but one kind of person: the person who should (according to Jesus) have known better. The Jewish priests and scholars received the brunt of Jesus’ criticism because they had studied what Jesus was teaching, but just didn’t get it. Even though they had all the time and resources to do so!
If I were to stop at this level and apply this logic, I could probably separate the creators I’ve mentioned into the groups of those who had a direct impact on the object of criticism, and those who didn’t. Those who had a direct impact, implying that they “should have known better,” deserve Chitose levels of criticism, and those who didn’t should be given the grace they deserve. But who am I to draw that line?
Of all people on this planet, Christians are called to the highest standard, even if that means they are hurt in the process. Jesus himself proclaimed that all people should turn the other cheek do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. By the same token, shouldn’t Christians also be the ones heaping enormous mounds of grace upon grace onto those who don’t deserve it?
The business manager inside me screams out, “Just let the economics of life sort people out!” but that hardly seems to be the essence of Christianity. For every Chitose, there is a depressed light novel author, and it’s only by giving grace to both of these people that we can ensure that all people are recipients of the love we ought to give, and the way to do that, Christian or not, is to be gracious in our criticism such that it can never become hate, whether it’s in something as large as an argument with a close friend or small as an idle complaint on Twitter.
*I should note here that Kazamatsuri.org has some of the nicest people I’ve met on the Internet, and many of them actually inspired this article thanks to their positive and thoughtful attitudes. Rarely within the standard of anonymity that the Internet has created have I stumbled across people who genuinely care about the feelings of the original writers of the works they care about.