And More Heuristics

Well, I’m watching a fair amount of anime this season, but I haven’t had much motivation to write about any of it since Campione! started getting stupid. (Erica is the only thing saving that show for me right now). I was thinking about an article about the game I’ve been playing most lately, Hearts of Iron 3, which is strategic scale WWII. I wasn’t that thrilled about it, but then, I noticed this unfinished article from 2009 (eep!), and so I decided to complete it.

From time to time, I’ve gotten into some deep discussions about some of the anime series i’ve seen. There’s a very few series that will set off one of these long, wall-o-text discussions, whether solo, with Steven den Beste, Avatar, or others that comment here. Off the top of my head, I remember these series causing such rampant speculation and discussion:

Tench Muyo GXP
Crest/Banner of the Stars
Divergence Eve
A Certain Magical Index/Scientific Railgun

To a much lesser extent:
Martian Successor Nadesico
Cardcaptor Sakura
Negima (manga)

So I thought to myself, “What do these series have in common? Why do they facinate me enough to at least mildly obsess over them?” These are my answers:

  • Complex universes somewhat different to much different from our own (that is, even if the story is contemporary, theres a “secret history” or “hidden world” aspect.
  • Light tone, a lot of humor. Exceptions, Crest/Banner, Index, and Divergence Eve.
  • Likeable characters.
  • A sense of adventure, wonder, or discovery.
  • Multi-level plots, where what seems to be going on, isn’t necessarily going on; peeling the onion.

I don’t think I wrote that much about MSN, back then, because I wasn’t blogging anime full time when I watched it. Of these all, the oddball is obviously Divergence Eve, which was sci-fi horror. And this doesn’t include the list of “passable time wasters” which is usually any harem series combined with combat. Or sometimes just harem.

In fact, I wrote back in 2007:

In fact, as I look back across the animé that I’ve acquired, a few common elements among my favorite shows start to become apparent. There are certain things that I like, which appear in my favorite shows, or the ones that I maintain are better than they seem at first.

1. Main Character Growth
2. Unpredictable
3. Sympathetic Major Characters
4. Good OP/ED
5. Humor
6. Defies the tropes
7. Fanservice
8. Art and animation quality
9. Defying the above rules (in a good way)
10. Tight plotting

(Obviously, #4 doesn’t apply to manga, although it might apply to the anime version, if any.) Ok, if I run with that, then what are the things that send me running away from a series?

  1. Uninteresting or repulsive main characters
  2. Is a Shonen Jump series
  3. Bad storytelling
  4. Trope overdose
  5. Lack of eye-candy

Why not Shonen Jump? Almost no eye candy. Take for instance, Busou Renkin. I finally realized what was wrong with it — all the character development and sense of the plot had been abandoned to find excuses to have bigger and bigger fights. That’s it for almost any Shonen Jump series, and they don’t include enough boobies to distract me from it. Any excuse to have bigger and badder fights–between guys. What finally blew me out of the series was when one guy rams another straight from a Pacific Island, into the moon! Then they stood on the moon jawing at each other. Groan. It was so bad, I managed to blank that out. Which was a mistake, because it led me to buy it later to find out what happened at the end. Seriously, “Aaaaaaarrgggh!”

A final note; as I said this doesn’t include time wasters — the subject is the kind of show that I tend to obsess and speculate over. I suppose the various Fate/Stay Night offshoots are up there too; I don’t speculate much, but they’re in the top tier of my favorite anime. So I guess fanservice is not really a major heuristic; it’s more secondary — it can put a show into the “time waster” category, but not into the top tier. And I think that’s as it should be–otherwise something is seriously wrong with my taste.

Maybe I’ll do the HOI3 article some other time…

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